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NM governor proposes paying new teachers more

FullSizeRenderSANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday announced an $11.5 million package of proposals that includes paying new teachers more and creating a mentorship program that her administration hopes will eventually lead to improvements in student achievement.

New Mexico consistently ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to education, and Martinez said during a visit to Zuni Elementary School in Albuquerque that increasing pay for starting teachers by $2,000 will help make the state’s recruitment efforts more competitive.

If approved by the Legislature, starting pay for a teaching job would be $34,000 per year, and any teacher currently earning less would receive a raise.

“Starting teacher salaries are too low in New Mexico, so we need to raise them again,” Martinez said in a statement.

Last year, the state budget included an increase in the minimum salary for new teachers to $32,000 per year. The latest proposal would cost the state an estimated $6.7 million to raise the base salary again.

The governor’s request will have to be hammered out by the Legislature when it meets in January for a 60-day session. Lawmakers have already warned state agencies to revamp their budget requests since a revenue forecast released this week shows the state will have less money to work with due to a drop in oil prices.

While no cuts are expected, key lawmakers have said state spending is expected to remain flat.

The Martinez administration also wants to expand a mentorship program for principals to include teachers. The $2.5 million program would partner high-performing teachers with educators who need help. Teachers would have to apply for the program and a stipend would be paid to both mentors and those teachers they’re helping.

The mentorship program for principals was initiated last year and state education officials say more than half of participating schools improved their school’s letter grade at least one level.

Martinez’s plan also calls for $2.3 million to help teachers purchase classroom supplies. The proposal is modeled after efforts in other states where teachers receive a $100 debit card for classroom materials. Teachers would provide receipts to account for the expenditures.

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