Election a blow to teachers union - Albuquerque Journal

Election a blow to teachers union

Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal

The teachers union in New Mexico’s largest city will have fewer friends on the school board next year after three board candidates won Tuesday’s election without union support.

Unofficial election results indicate three out of four school board seats were won by candidates funded by business groups, not the teachers union.

“There’s going to be a new dynamic on the board. We will see if the board is split on important issues, especially those issues that have to do with the interests of their employees,” said Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein.

Albuquerque Public Schools is the largest district in the state, serving around 74,000 students, about 20% of the children in New Mexico. It operates a $1.6 billion budget and a full-time staff of around 12,600 workers.

Elections across the state Tuesday determined school board races and mayoral contests. Voters in most towns approved property taxes and bonds to pay for schools, including some $630 million for APS.

The non-union candidates received funding from business groups, including NAIOP the Commercial Real Estate Development Association and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. The races are nonpartisan.

“The board of education should be the kids’ union,” said Republican Courtney Jackson, a stay-at-home mother and school PTA leader.

Jackson said teacher interests are important, but was incensed by school board meetings this spring that downplayed student needs and delayed school reopenings. “Their interests were not brought up once, even after the state … said it was safe to go back to school,” she said.

Business groups played a large role in helping such candidates as Jackson, while state GOP involvement was minimal. Democrat Danielle Gonzales, a nonprofit manager, relied on the same groups. As did Crystal Tapia-Romero, a child care center owner who is not registered with a political party.

“NAIOP has been wonderful with me. The teachers union, not so much,” Tapia-Romero said. “But I look forward to working with them.”

One union candidate did win: Democrat Josefina Dominguez, a retired teacher. She attributed the losses of her colleagues to a change in election timing that allowed for more turnout, as well as an influx of money from such groups as NAIOP.

“I take the long-term look. I think, in the end, more participation is good. In this particular case, it costs the union its slate,” Dominguez said.

NAIOP says members wouldn’t have gotten involved if not for a frustrating pandemic school year and a corruption scandal involving a state legislator and school administrator.

“They all had kids in public school here. So, it was just wanting more transparency, wanting more strategic goals, wanting … more ability to have a voice as a parent,” said New Mexico NAIOP President Lynne Andersen.

Andersen and Dominguez share a common idea for sweeping education reform: Both want to see trade apprenticeships become more common in an education system they believe has focused almost exclusively on college preparation.

“We, as a nation, I think tend to denigrate the trades. And I think it’s a disservice to our kids,” Andersen said.

“The placing of students with the trades to learn plumbing or electrical work, or, you know, carpentry, I would love to see that expanded to our neighborhood schools,” Dominguez said.


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