This story incorrectly reported that Albuquerque Public Schools and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation were hiring a federal mediator to help with contract negotiations. Federal mediation services are free of cost.
The Albuquerque Public Schools board will vote tonight on a proposed $690 million operational budget for next school year that includes $15 million for a 3 percent employee pay raise.
Also included in the proposed budget is $1 million for a 6 percent salary bump for educational assistants and $1.3 million to increase the minimum salary for each of the three teacher tiers by $2,000 – raising them to $32,000, $42,000 and $52,000. Teachers in New Mexico are divided into three tiers based on their experience and education.
APS Superintendent Winston Brooks has said salary increases for teachers are “well-deserved and overdue.”
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved funding for a 3 percent salary increase for state workers, including teachers. They also raised the minimum salary for the lowest teacher tier by $2,000. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a measure requiring districts to raise the minimum salary for second- and third-tier teachers by $2,000. APS administration chose to propose the increases anyway.
It remains unclear how much exactly teacher salaries will change next year, however, as contract negotiations between APS administration and the teachers’ union have broken down.
The two sides have agreed to hire a federal arbitrator to help settle the dispute, said Karen Rudys, APS executive director of labor relations. Rudys said she is not sure how much the arbitrator will cost.
Ellen Bernstein, Albuquerque Teachers Federation president, recently criticized Brooks and Don Moya, APS chief financial officer, for speaking about salary increases at public forums, which she said broke ground rules for their negotiations.
Brooks said he disagreed that he or Moya broke any ground rules. They informed the school board and the public that the budget would include money for salary increases, but they didn’t say specifically how much salaries would go up, Brooks said.
Bernstein sent Brooks a letter outlining her complaints two weeks ago. After receiving the letter, Brooks called an impasse to negotiations. Bernstein and Brooks met last week but did not agree to resume negotiations.
Class sizes are expected to decrease 2 percent under the proposed budget, which includes $4.8 million for an additional 80 teachers, said APS spokeswoman Johanna King. She noted the actual number of new hires will depend on next year’s enrollment, however.
Moya said APS received $634 million in state funding – through the equalized formula – for next school year, a $22.1 million increase. Most of the increased funding went to salary increases, he said.
The proposed budget calls for tapping $5 million of the district’s cash reserves to cover a cash shortfall, Moya said. He added tapping cash reserves is not something he would advocate doing every year.
“It’s non-recurring revenue and we’re using it for recurring expenses,” Moya said.