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'Save our schools,' teachers tell state public officials

Kai Porter
March 16, 2017 06:31 PM

Hundreds of teachers, students and parents made their presence known at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe Thursday afternoon.

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With just two days to go in the legislative session and lawmakers still hammering out a budget to send to the governor’s desk, demonstrators marched around the state capitol building before delivering letters to Gov. Susana Martinez. Fed up with years of budget cuts, teachers voiced their concerns.

The rally started at 3 p.m. after schools in Santa Fe got out early. Rally attendees encircled the Roundhouse, and they had strong messages for lawmakers and the governor. 

 “As a new teacher, I may lose my job," teacher Carin Clark said. "That’s scary.”

“You get to the point where you just feel like no one believes in us," added another educator, Rachel Gersh. "No one’s supporting us. We’re supposed to solve it all by ourselves.”

Even retired teachers like Helen Sanchez, who taught in Santa Fe Public Schools for decades, showed their support.

“I have never seen anything like this before," Sanchez said. "I have devoted 40 years of my life to teaching in Santa Fe. I love Santa Fe and I love the public school system. So I'm hoping something good will come out of the legislature.”

There were also plenty of parents and students in the crowd urging Martinez and lawmakers to reach a compromise on school funding and avoid deeper budget cuts.

“School is the future of New Mexico,” third-grader Jacob Lucero said.

Even Santa Fe’s youngest students like Lucero was there with his mom Tanya Frank at the rally.

“We’re trying to all support each other," Frank said. "This is why they’re here. They need to come to a decision and save our schools. Give us money. Support us as much as they can.”

After marching around the Roundhouse, the group made their way up to the fourth floor of the Roundhouse to deliver the letters to the governor’s office. Parent Joella Coca was one of them.

“We need every penny, and the kids already have a lot on their plate. And teachers, they don’t have the resources," she said. "And they’re going to take more, so it’s real upsetting.”

Suzanne Salladin’s daughter goes to Santa Fe High School, and she’s worried about the effect of budget cuts on the classroom. 

“If this coming year for the classes she registered for if these cuts are put through, she’ll lose four of the classes she’s registered for,” said Salladin.

Despite the hundreds of people who attended, the protesters were all peaceful. State police said there were no incidents during the rally, which wrapped up around 4:15 p.m.

Martinez was not at the Roundhouse Thursday. She attended the funeral for Najavo Nation police officer Houston James Largo. Her chief of staff, Keith Gardner, gave KOB an interview in her absence.

“First, you had a bunch of teachers and school children here today during school time. And let’s be honest, this is a move by the education unions who are trying to make something when there’s nothing there, frankly," he said. "They want to come here to this building and protest and they should be in the classroom teaching our kids. We talk about the importance and value of classroom time … That’s where they need to be and that’s where our kids belong on a teaching day.”

Gardner added the governor has always stood with teachers. He said they are going to ensure education will continue to be funded appropriately.

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Kai Porter

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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