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Education transition team missing key voices

We are pleased Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan-Grisham has put teachers and former teachers on her transition team, which will be reviewing the current state of New Mexico’s Public Education Department (NMPED). We agree there is much work to be done for education and equity for students, and we strongly believe that teacher voice is invaluable in this process.

According to a (Dec. 1) Albuquerque Journal article, the governor-elect’s transition director said, “After eight years of being left out of the conversation, it is critical we listen to the perspectives of individuals inside our schools.”

We take deep pride in the fact New Mexico is a state of diversity, which means diverse perspectives are crucial to produce quality education. Our concern is her team has left out diverse, critical voices that deserve representation, as well. The most noticeable voices that are missing are teachers from rural areas across the state. Student and teacher need is different in different areas of the state, and our concern is leaving out these voices will not serve everyone equitably. We are also missing teachers who are not represented directly by the teachers union. While teachers who represent the union are prevalent on the transition team, there are no other teacher groups represented. There are large groups of teachers who do not feel that the union represents them, and their voices need to be heard, too. The last group that we think needs to be included is teachers from public charter schools. The number of students served by charter schools in our state is always increasing, and these students need people who speak for them.

Of course, it may not be possible to change who is on the transition team at this point. However, if the transition team truly honors the diverse perspectives of educators in New Mexico, it must find a way to discuss the state of education with a variety of different voices across the state. These voices should come from rural areas, charter schools, non-union groups and others not represented.

We suggest these groups meet with teacher leaders throughout New Mexico, including representatives from groups like the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory Committee, New Mexico Teach Plus, Educators Elevating New Mexico and the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. These represent the diverse voices of more than 1,000 teachers from 89 districts across New Mexico; teachers who deeply understand educational policy are represented by these groups and have been active in education policy since 2015.

Again, we treasure that Lujan-Grisham has put teacher voice at the forefront of education, but it is clear there needs to be more diversity in the voices. If a more well-rounded variety of voices is not considered, reviewed and/or represented, ultimately, the voices and perspectives of our students will be silenced.

… To establish true equity in New Mexico, the transition team needs to consider all voices, even groups that may represent different opinion, … when making decisions that will directly impact N.M. students and their education.

We strongly believe the transition team needs to reflect our state’s diversity if we want our next education department to. As teachers, we look forward to creating a more equitable future for our students where true diversity of perspective is represented at all levels of education. We urge Lujan-Grisham to reach out to us.

This op-ed was also signed by: N.M. teachers Patrizia Flores, Jo Anna Foreman, Joel Hutchinson, Jill Hutchinson-Bass, Michelle Lopez, Tennise Lucas, Caroline Marrufo, John A. McElhinney, Silvia Miranda, Evelyn Nevarez-Grassel, Edward Pena, Kelli Ramirez, Felicitas Reyes, Cherie Romero, Jessica Sanders, Shana Speicher, Joleene Starr, Andrea Thomas, Lee Ann Trzcienski, John Turrietta, Lupe Vasquez, Alysha Wagley and Kathy Zimmermann.