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The Despicable Rally

By: Rae Arnett

More than 1000 New Mexico educators, parents, and students rallied at the Roundhouse Thursday afternoon according to Santa Fe Public Schools. With the hundreds of participants marching, chanting, and holding signs, it is hard not to believe the Governor and members of New Mexico’s state senate and congress did not hear the displeasure of their constituents.

The rally started off with marching around the roundhouse and chanting “save our schools” and “no more cuts”.

One woman in an upper level office at the roundhouse actually closed her window in an attempt to drown out the protests. Others in offices at the roundhouse stood at their windows and quietly cheered the protestors on.

Lana Wimberly, the 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher at Nino Otero community school showed up Thursday, March 16th, to support her school and all New Mexico educators as they protested outside of the New Mexico Roundhouse.

Lana Wimberly holds the sign her class helped create.

“As soon as the superintendent said she might be giving us some time off the kids and I started planning what we would do,” said Wimberly.

She was a little disappointed it was only a half day off for the schools because that meant some of her students would be able to make it.

“We were planning on where to meet up and how they could find me but with the half day off some of my students won’t be able to make it,” stated Wimberly.

Wimberly is from Texas originally and said Texas teachers have so much more than we do in New Mexico.

“The teachers here in New Mexico don’t even know what they are missing…almost $3000 more a month in pay, and more time off,” said Wimberly. Wimberly was especially disappointed that Governor Martinez would call educators despicable.

“Susanna Martinez just wants to take more away from the schools… she called us despicable,” said Wimberly in a shocked tone.

When asked, Wimberly stated she did not think the session would solve any of the issues at hand.

“I don’t think in this session will solve anything. It looks like the Republican senators are falling in line behind Susanna after she retaliated about them overriding her veto…whatever the next session is, maybe we can come up with something for our schools,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly said she has considered going back to Texas to teach, but she is not planning on going alone.

“I’ve thought about taking other teacher with me back to Texas so they could make more money. I have a five bedroom house there that I rent and I would like to do it just to make a statement,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly stated she has wrote a letter to Governor Martinez telling her about the plan. 

Joe Lister Jr., the Medically Fragile and Special Education teacher at Santa Fe High School attended the roundhouse rally because of his concern about how education cuts affect students long term.

“I don’t think law makers understand that education is the foundation for jobs, the street crime, the jails, and all the things that cost more money in the end,” said Lister.

Lister also stated he was concerned about the lac

k of awareness of the federal mandates for special education. “We can’t do it (meet the standards) without funding from the city, the state, and districts. With out that funding they will wreck us,” said Lister.

I don’t know if it’ll get solved but I think the people coming together to be heard is a great thing. 

Lister’s main concern for the upcoming school year is how special education will be affected.

“I am concerned the special education children won’t have the proper support needed to fulfill their education needs and how cuts will affect education all the way around,” said Lister.

Lara Becker, the 3rd grade teacher at Amy Biehl Community School, was also in attendance.

Becker said she attended because she was concerned about the budget cuts.

“The superintendent gave us a perfect opportunity to come out here and we are grateful for her,” said Becker. 

She stated that she hoped this rally would have a positive impact on how the budget was handled.

“Hopefully if the numbers show then it will make a statement. We can only be hopeful,” said Becker.

Becker’s main concern for next school year is the losing teachers.

“Losing teachers, losing quality teachers. It’s a loss for the kids,” said Becker.

Governor Martinez’s office did not return my call for comment.

Thursday’s March made it clear that New Mexico educators are fed up with the budget cuts to education in the state. New Mexico representatives would do well to listen to them, these protests come from people who voted them into office after all.

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New Mexico’s Education Enigma

By: Rae Arnett

Education has been a hot topic in national news since Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Concerns about DeVos and how she will fund the public school system and what, if anything, she will change are prominent on social media; almost as prominent as the memes about how unqualified she is to hold the office.

Education has been a tense subject in New Mexico for years. Lack of funds and increased testing standards have made educating the youth more difficult, and for a small salary. Most recently concerns were raised about the bill Governer Susana Martinez signed into effect which took funds from public school’s savings to decrease the budget deficit for the state.

To get a better grasp on how these cuts might affect educators in New Mexico, I thought I would ask a few.

Jamie Guevara, a middle school Language Arts teacher, said his concerns about DeVos centered on her lack of experience.

“I am only aware of pro voucher which would make our low performing schools even worse.  DeVos lacks the understanding of issues that affect public education and does not have the resume to be in her current position,” said Guevara.

Connie Jackson, Business Manager for the Regional Education Center #6, was more optimistic.

“I am willing to wait and see what will happen, it will be a challenge for her to put aside her personal preferences regarding education, I believe we need to be positive and give her the benefit of the doubt….let’s hope she steps up,” said Jackson.

Anita Narvot, a middle school Social Studies and Language Arts teacher, said “I can’t imagine standardized testing would increase with the new administration, we already have so much in place…  Federal funding could definitely be an issue with her in NM.  As you mentioned, we are already hurting and do not meet the NM Constitution funding formula” are her concerns about DeVos.

As far as the state taking money from the schools to balance the state budget, the answers are all centered around the state budget being important, but education is important as well.

“I think it is a temporary fix and the state is targeting the wrong areas to “fix” the budget.  The borrowing will target school budgets financially and will be a hardship for all schools, personnel, instructional materials, transportation, food service….all will suffer,” said Jackson.

“If there is a rainy day fund then it’s time to use it. I think policy makers and administration need to cut unnecessary spending and put the money in the classroom.  New Mexico needs to prioritize.  We can combat our high poverty rate with better learning experience for kids,” said Guevara.

The goals for how each of the interviewees would improve education in New Mexico, if they could only change one thing, were focused on more opportunities for students and better pay for teachers.

“Consistent pay raises for the education profession will attract more qualified and dedicated applicants.  I have witnessed a lot of students who initially go to college for a teaching degree move to another major due to low pay and too many requirements asked of teachers and officials,” said Jackson.

“I would fund public education equally so that every student receives the same amount of money for his/her education regardless of the state they live in,” said Guevara.

Their concerns about New Mexico education echoed these goals to move towards.

“Money makes a difference in education. From a federal to a state level, priorities need to change.  Teacher compensation is low in NM, so teachers go elsewhere and recruiting a good teacher is difficult. Too many students drop out because NM does not offer vocational learning alternatives. I don’t see progress. I see politicians creating mandates that hinder progress,” said Guevara.

“Less funding to the districts means more staff and program cuts….more hiring of first year teachers (if they can find any) who don’t have any experience, also non-experienced classified staff.  I see a lot of eligible folks who can retire and will if they have to take on more responsibilities.  If schools try to reduce expenses through attrition it also creates a problem, one person sometimes is going to have to do two jobs, which cuts into quality education.  Fine arts and athletics will be the first things to go and I feel these are very important programs for the success of our students,” said Jackson.

With concerns about being able to train, retain, and successfully support the retirement of educators in New Mexico as well as budget short falls which affect our classrooms and students, it might be worth listening to the educators on the front line for solutions.

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JeffCo Schools Update

In Jefferson County, CO, hundreds of high school students are walking out of classes to protest proposed changes to the school district’s history curriculum. JeffCo board member Julie Williams’s proposal calls for the formation of a committee “to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards” and goes on to state that “[m]aterials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

The full text of the proposal is available via JeffCo’s boarddocs.com account. Williams gave a statement on Tuesday in which she expressed surprise at the students’ reaction. Williams further stated that “balance and respect for citizenship is not censorship.” The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a response that same afternoon in which they said, “A committee that polices educational materials for insufficient devotion to patriotism or a lack of respect for authority runs the real danger of substituting propaganda for education.”

As of Thursday morning high school walkouts are continuing, with Summit Ridge Middle School attempting to become involved as well. Summit Ridge administration did not allow students out to protest, causing tumult both for parents and administrators. Protests are expected to continue in the absence of revisions to the proposal.

Story by Sara Krafft.