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Union: Licensed APS employees may get 7% pay increase

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools teachers and other licensed employees could be getting a bigger raise than that prescribed by lawmakers.

The state budget that was signed in April mandated and set aside monies to boost teachers' minimum salary levels and to increase pay for teachers, principals and other school staff by 6%.

The budget bumped teacher salary minimums to $41,000, $50,000 and $60,000 for levels one, two and three teachers, respectively – upping starting pay from $36,000.

Local union Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein told the Journal that a 7% uptick is in the works for all licensed APS school employees.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein

This includes teachers with more work experience who already meet base salary requirements, Bernstein said.

“The issue for us has been and still is the fact that (lawmakers) allocate money based on the idea that you can compress the salary schedule from the bottom up. And then not include the same amount of raise for the other people in the school,” Bernstein said.

She noted that the raises still need to be voted on by the APS Board of Education and employees, which she expects to take place in August.

The ATF president said the union's goal was to ensure a bigger boost for teachers and employees that have been in the profession longer.

“It's a really good thing to have new minimums, but we have to take care of experienced teachers, too. So, we negotiated one percent more than they allocated,” she said.

She said ultimately she hopes the 7% increase will help with retention.

“We have to attract people with these three-tier minimums, but we have to retain people, too,” she said. “We don't have an excess of teachers willing to teach in our schools. So we have to pay as much attention to people with experience as we do trying to attract new people into the profession.”

Bernstein felt the uptick in salary tiers was unfair because, while some teachers would get a $5,000 to $6,000 increase to come into compliance with the new minimums, others would get less of a raise.

“It's like the more time you have, the less you are valued,” she said.

She told the Journal that the 7% increase would be for all licensed staff, including teachers, social workers and nurses, and counselors, among others.

In addition, the union said negotiations were also made to put counselors, social workers, nurses, interpreters, special education therapists and audiologists on the same minimum pay tiers as teachers.

Bernstein said that these employees are currently paid on a three-tier system, but the goal was to get them the same $41,000, $50,000 and $60,000 tiers that lawmakers guaranteed for teachers.

The union leader said that negotiations have been ongoing since April and this tentative agreement was reached Thursday.

If finalized, the raises would be for the 2019-20 school year, she said.

APS spokeswoman Johanna King confirmed the information from the union was accurate, but said she couldn't comment further as the negotiations are ongoing.

King did not say how much the additional raises are projected to cost APS.

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