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Bill to give teachers ways to advance stalls

Lisa Dunlap Photo Hope Morales, New Mexico policy director for Teach Plus

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A bill to offer teachers more opportunities for promotions that was supported by a local educator will not make it through the New Mexico Legislature this year, but Hope Morales says her advocacy group will continue its effort to have the changes implemented.

Morales, New Mexico policy director for Teach Plus and former Roswell Independent School District teacher, testified Thursday before the House Committee on Consumer and Public Affairs in support of HB 177.

The bill was tabled by a vote of 3-2, ending its changes to be considered by the full Legislature this year. The chair, who supported the tabling motion, noted that the bill would have to move to the Education Committee if passed but that it would not be able to consider the bill until Thursday, when the legislative session is due to close.

The bill would allow experienced Level 2 teachers additional ways to become Level 3 teachers besides earning master’s degrees or national certifications. Years of service and classroom effectiveness, as judged by evaluations and classroom observations, could be used instead. Level 3 teachers are paid about $52,000 a year.

In addition, the legislation proposed adding a Level 4 licensure, which would increase pay from $3,000 to $10,500 a year depending on what grade they teach. Level 4 would be for master teachers who would primarily be involved in helping other teachers or educational aides improve their teaching practices.

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Morales told committee members that many teachers are performing higher-level Level 4 work, such as serving as teacher mentors and acting on leadership councils, but the current system does not necessarily reward them for that.

“We have teachers who are already demonstrating that, but they are not being compensated for the work they are doing,” she testified.

The intention of the bill, according to materials produced by Teach Plus, is to keep effective teachers in schools rather than having them seek administrative roles or jobs in other states as ways to receive better compensation.

A Legislative Education Study Committee analysis said the bill, if enacted, could cost the state $4.5 million a year if one teacher in each school moved up to a Level 4.

Another bill, Senate Bill 116, which also proposed a Level 4 licensure, remained in committee as well at the end of Friday.

Morales said Teach Plus will continue to work to have the HB 177 legislation considered in 2019 or to have the changes adopted by the Public Education Department.

Teach Plus is a national group operating in several states to encourage teachers to lead policy and practice changes in their field. The New Mexico group has about 20 teachers from 12 school districts participating.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.