The New Mexico legislative session that ended Feb. 15 resulted in some good news for public school teachers: a pay increase of 2.5% and a raise in the minimum salary for entry-level teachers to $36,000. Funding for early childhood programs also increased, and revenue for lottery scholarships for students in higher education was stabilized.
This good news is a result of the state’s increased revenue from oil revenues, which is a linchpin of the New Mexico economy. But because of the past few years’ revenue shortfalls, the state’s funding for education at all levels remains low, and salaries for public school teachers and higher education faculty are some of the lowest in the country. While funding for early childhood education was increased, a proposal to greatly expand these programs by drawing on funds from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund failed.
Republican Governor Susana Martinez vetoed more than $2 million intended for the state’s tribal communities, including nearly $200,000 for educational programs for Blacks, Latino/as, and Native Americans at the University of New Mexico. According to the Lumina Foundation, only 19% of Native Americans in NM have an associate’s degree. Martinez recently fired the New Mexico Assistant Secretary for Native American Education, Latifah Phillips. In December, Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski claimed in a speech that Manifest Destiny was among the nation’s “fundamental principles of this country,” a statement strongly criticized by tribal leaders.