Bill to raise New Mexico teacher pay passes first House committee

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Senate Bill 1 easily passed its first House committee Friday. It would increase teacher pay in New Mexico by about 20%.

"We are starting to hear people say, ‘OK, well, if you’re going to raise salaries that much I’ll stick around for another few years," state Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said. She’s one of the sponsors of the bill.

With a unanimous vote Friday morning, the House Education Committee passed SB 1 to increase teachers’ base salaries. It would increase the minimum teacher salary to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 a year depending on a teacher’s experience.

New Mexico’s teachers would be the highest paid in the region. Stewart said they deserve it – especially after working through the pandemic.

"Excuse my French, but they’ve been through hell for three years," she said. "This is supposed to be the year to catch up and go back to normal and we’re far from it, with the pandemic still here and the absences that are created through COVID, this is not really a catch-up year. This is a year where we tried to ask teachers to hang on."

Stewart hopes the pay bump will help fill more than 1,000 teacher vacancies in the state.

"This is a recruitment tool, this is a retention tool, this is the way we should show a little more respect for the professionalism of our teachers," Stewart said.

The bill now heads to its final House committee. After that, it will head to the House floor.

Track SB 1 during the legislative session.