School districts seek guidance on salary increases - Albuquerque Journal

School districts seek guidance on salary increases

School districts have been grappling this week with how to implement salary increases that were in the state budget Gov. Susana Martinez signed earlier this year.

Included in the budget was a 2.5 percent pay bump for teachers and an increase in minimum starting teacher pay from $34,000 to $36,000 per year, beginning in the fall.

But districts have been debating on how to interpret the salary legislation.

Albuquerque Public Schools’ budget committee presented two interpretations to its Board of Education this week.

“There are two things that are out there on the table that we are waiting for a ruling on,” APS Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said.

Option one: One reading of the legislation would result in increasing salaries by 2.5 percent across the board. Then, if there are incomes that don’t reach the $36,000 minimum, their salaries would be bumped up.

Option two: Salaries would be brought up to $36,000 first, then the 2.5 percent increase would be implemented.

“What’s right for employees is to tier first and then raise,” board member Barbara Petersen said at the meeting.

Preliminary estimates showed that would cost APS in excess of $3 million more than option one.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said it’s “difficult” and “dangerous” to talk about the budget so early in the process. But she anticipates that APS will move forward with option two.

“This is a fluid process that goes through many iterations before (being) finalized,” she wrote in an email to the Journal, declining to answer further questions.

But APS isn’t alone.

Statewide confusion

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she is also working with her team to interpret how to move forward.

“Ultimately, districts are going to be in a very tricky position,” Garcia said.

Garcia is hopeful that the next few weeks will bring clarity and ensure that there aren’t any legal challenges, so “we won’t have to go back to the drawing board (for our budget).”

Garcia said a meeting with other superintendents reflected that confusion was statewide.

“Superintendents asked for a guidance document to please come out from the PED,” she said, which she is expecting by next week.

Garcia echoed APS, saying the budget process is still in its early stages and that’s why things are so tentative.

Legislative intent

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, who sponsored the bill that increased teachers’ minimum salaries, said she knows there’s confusion among the districts, which she thinks stemmed from a lack of explanation from PED.

“The PED’s message to the field has been consistent that districts and charters are responsible for adhering to the new statutory language,” PED responded via statement.

And the state agency added that the department plans to send out additional guidance for districts that are still confused.

Stewart said the legislative intent was to give each teacher more money through two separate routes:

• Teachers moving up in pay levels or just starting out, will get more money through the minimum salary tier increases.

• Teachers who don’t benefit from the minimum salary increases would then get more money through the 2.5 percent raises.

“How we figured the increase was, first, they impose the tier system … and on top of that impose the 2.5 percent,” she said.

According to Stewart, money was set aside for both routes, and will be included in district funding received through the state funding formula.

The budget included $115 million of additional public education funding for fiscal year 2019, the majority of which is going to schools’ funding, according to PED.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


Suspect charged in bear spray attacks
ABQnews Seeker
Tucumcari man also accused of punching ... Tucumcari man also accused of punching police officer, trying to grab his weapons
Face To Face with Sonya Marquez: Fighting crime in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Crime Stoppers enlists public help to ... Crime Stoppers enlists public help to solve cases, bring closure
UNM set to appeal unionization effort
ABQnews Seeker
University’s graduate students have filed for ... University’s graduate students have filed for union recognition with labor relations board
Woman charged in DWI crash that killed passenger
ABQnews Seeker
Incident one of two fatal crashes ... Incident one of two fatal crashes on I-40 Friday
Lawyer disputes son's claims
ABQnews Seeker
Attorney says secrecy rules keep her ... Attorney says secrecy rules keep her from defending herself
'They have the ability to do this': Son's battle ...
ABQnews Seeker
Dorris Hamilton is an iconic figure ... Dorris Hamilton is an iconic figure in Las Cruces. ...
NM targets wastewater wells to prevent quakes
ABQnews Seeker
State trying to avoid levels of ... State trying to avoid levels of seismic activity in Oklahoma, Texas
Emptying the Notebook: A forgetful trip to Las Vegas
ABQnews Seeker
Here are a few extra notes, ... Here are a few extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after the Lobos' Friday ...
Former Los Lunas schools superintendent settles lawsuit against district ...
ABQnews Seeker
Settlement includes $200K in lost wages, ... Settlement includes $200K in lost wages, $400K for emotional distress, attorneys' fees