Las Cruces educator union argues for higher pay - Albuquerque Journal

Las Cruces educator union argues for higher pay

Onate High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in June 2020.

The National Education Association Las Cruces is fighting for better wages for educators, arguing salaries for teachers locally have not increased at the same rate as they have for teachers in other New Mexico districts.

Denise Sheehan, president of NEA-LC, in October announced an impasse on negotiations with Las Cruces Public Schools, the sticking point being compensation. Negotiations began in the spring of 2021.

“With inflation, everything, people are hurting, our teachers are hurting and it’s making them quit the profession,” she said.

The school district declined to comment on the negotiations.

Sheehan and NEA-LC took to district records to find data to support their view of needing better pay. Sheehan said she was shocked by what they found.

Union findings

Over the past five years, the average teacher salary has increased by about 16% statewide, while the average LCPS teacher’s salary has increased by about 10.5%, according to NEA-LC’s findings.

In 2017, the average salary for Las Cruces teachers was $48,784. That year, the average salaries were $44,924 in Albuquerque, $44,828 in Rio Rancho, $47,399 in Gadsden and $46,328 in Santa Fe. Las Cruces was paying more than other large districts.

In 2021, the average Las Cruces teacher was paid $53,896 annually. In Albuquerque, the average was $53,890, Rio Rancho was $52,076, Gadsden was $55,147 and Santa Fe was $54,252. Each district’s average teacher salary increased at a rate greater than it did for Las Cruces teachers.

NEA-LC alleges the school district has the money to pay teachers more but has chosen not to. The union’s data found that LCPS has used less of its allotted budget every year since 2017, carrying over $22 million in the past five years.

“Instead of investing in modest increases to salaries and benefits, the district has chosen to sock away tens of millions of dollars in unrestricted cash carryover for the last five years,” Sheehan stated in a news release. “Other districts increased their cash carryover 75%. Las Cruces has increased its cash carryover by a whopping 208%.

“Those funds should be invested in our school sites, our students, and in the people who serve our students, our educators.”

Sheehan said that educators – teachers, educational assistants, etc. – are not being appreciated for their dedication to the classroom, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said teachers will be getting an $850 stipend – for their work amid the pandemic – by December, but even this, Sheehan said, was long overdue.

The stipend had been negotiated the previous year, and was intended to be paid out by June 2021. LCPS had no comment on the delays.

“If you think about the way we reopened schools, it was kind of abrupt,” Sheehan said, explaining the stipend. “We’re shut down, we’re shut down, and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Here’s your start date, you’re going back.’ It was kind of chaotic. (The stipend) was supposed to be inclusive of all of that. ‘You stuck it out. Thank you.’ Other districts offered the same thing, and they got it earlier than we did.”

Impacting educators

Although schools are back mostly to in-person, online learning has not gone away.

Amanda Corrales, a third-grade teacher at LCPS, said that she can hardly recall a single day this year when all of her students were in-person at the same time.

This is the new normal under COVID-19 safe practices. If an unvaccinated student comes in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine for 10 days from their last exposure.

“It’s a revolving door,” Corrales said. “Not only do we do our typical duty, but we also have to take care of the online component.”


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 yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
City Council denies $110 million facilities plan
ABQnews Seeker
New bonds included in package would ... New bonds included in package would have taken 19 years to pay off
2
Pryor's buzzer beater in OT gives NMSU heated win ...
ABQnews Seeker
Nate Pryor's overtime buzzer beater gave ... Nate Pryor's overtime buzzer beater gave NSMU a win over rival UNM in front of 13,019 fans in the Pit before emphatically celebrating on ...
3
Emptying the Notebook: Aggie/Lobo rivalry is heated again
ABQnews Seeker
Here are some extra notes, quotes, ... Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, video and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Monday's overtime thriller between ...
4
NMSU nursing student sings national anthem in Diné Bizaad
ABQnews Seeker
Vanisha Sam hopes to work closely ... Vanisha Sam hopes to work closely with the Navajo people and help impact the community via health care
5
Woman tries to set fire to the Islamic Center
ABQnews Seeker
Mosque officials believe she also tried ... Mosque officials believe she also tried to start a fire inside the center on Nov. 7
6
NM tourism leaders seek $55M from lawmakers to help ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico tourism leaders are requesting ... New Mexico tourism leaders are requesting $55 million from lawmakers during the special legislative ...
7
New Mexico could see snow, gusty winds
ABQnews Seeker
Snow levels will move to lower ... Snow levels will move to lower elevations in central and northern NM as Friday progresses
8
Virtual lecture on events 80 years ago
ABQnews Seeker
Event will focus on America's entry ... Event will focus on America's entry into the war, the New Mexicans who died and events surrounding the 52 subs lost in the war
9
Man charged after police say he grabbed bus steering ...
ABQnews Seeker
Resulting crash injured several passengers; driver ... Resulting crash injured several passengers; driver is in critical condition