New Mexico to offer equal pay to Native American teachers | Education
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico will begin offering equal pay to dozens of Native language teachers under a new law aimed at improving K-12 education for Native American students and preserving their languages and cultures.
A bill signed into law Thursday counts educators certified in the native languages taught in public schools and spoken by New Mexico’s 23 tribes and pueblos as beginning teachers eligible for state minimum wages.
Earlier this week, the state raised the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 for a nine-month contract, from $40,000 previously. Together, the new measures will ensure that some 155 Indigenous language certificate holders will be paid at least as much if they have a teaching contract. Paid as “pedagogical assistants”, some had earned only $14,000.
“Teachers who continue this integral part of the culture and history of so many in our state deserve to be paid as the education professionals that they are,” said Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. .
The bill’s signing comes as Lujan Grisham’s administration fights a decade-old lawsuit brought by parents of underserved students, including Native Americans.
A plan to respond to the lawsuit, which ruled against her in 2018, has not been released. Tribal leaders said in October they had not been consulted as promised.
About 11% of students in New Mexico are Native Americans. New Mexico’s public and tribal schools teach eight native languages, including Zuni and Navajo, with language teachers certified through a process run by tribal authorities.
These tribal language certificate holders are qualified to attend K-12 schools, but have not been eligible for the minimum salary protections enjoyed by traditional teachers who earn a four-year college degree in subjects like English or Spanish. Universities do not offer study programs for most tribal languages.
While at least one school district in New Mexico voluntarily paid language teachers fairly, there was no minimum wage and some earned as little as $14,000 a year as teaching assistants despite the work of a teacher, such as lesson planning, curriculum development, and leadership. classroom.
“This is a watershed moment for teachers of native languages,” said Rose Chavez, a Keres teacher at Bernalillo High School and a member of nearby Kewa Pueblo. “I feel very honored and congratulated.”
Chavez’s high school boss began offering him equal pay in recent years and has come out publicly in favor of the changes this year.
Native American leaders welcome the new law but say the governor still has work to do.
“I can appreciate her signing the bill, but I wish the administration would be a lot more contributory,” said Rep. Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, who sponsored the legislation. “Our students will be able to learn their native language from the experts in our own communities.”