Legislation dealing with education will be a hot topic for state lawmakers when they convene their 60-day session next week. Teacher pay, holding failing kids back, and charter schools are among measures to be debated.
This week Governor Susana Martinez unveiled her proposal to add $13.5 million to help failing students read at grade level. It will be part of the governor's push for retention of third-graders who can't read well enough. That bill failed last year. But teachers union leaders and lawmakers - such as Democratic Representative Rick Miera of Albuquerque - say that parents should decide whether to hold back a student, not the state. "Just holding them back is not going to make a difference;" said Miera. "They're just going to go back to the same teacher. In Albuquerque, maybe, maybe not but in a smaller school district like in the other 88 school districts, you're probably going to get that same teacher and do the same thing over and over again. What good have you done except held back that student, so I was never ever in favor of the third-grade retention."
Miera disagrees with several of the governor's education reform issues. The incoming House majority leader says he'll be pushing for more money for teacher's insurance costs and raises.
"They have not had a raise in years. Not only have we not given them a raise, but their insurance costs have gone up so much that it's almost like it costs them more every year to come to school." (:09)
The governor says she wants to align teacher pay to her new evaluation system that she is implementing through administrative rule, after the legislature has consistently failed to pass such a measure.
Charter schools are facing increased opposition from critics at the Roundhouse who say they drain money from traditional public schools. Republican Nate Gentry of Albuquerque doesn't see it that way, "They provide some specialties in education that you know, some can't find in traditional public schools. If they're meeting the needs of their population…if, there are some charter schools for example one in my district where the proficiency in math and reading is the mid-90s in both, so if you're paying a little more to get that type of result, I think the expenditure is well worth it"
Education accounts for the largest part - almost 44% - of the state's budget
Both Gentry and Miera agree that compromise must be the operative word in this 60-day legislative session. But charter schools, student retention and teacher pay are sure to be just some of the thorny education issues that will test lawmakers' spirit of cooperation.