Heinrich backs bill proposing tax credits for some educators

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced he is backing a bill that, if passed, would provide tax incentives for educators in at-risk schools.

Sen. Dick Durbin introduced the Retaining Educators Takes Added Investment Now Act – RETAIN Act. If passed, the RETAIN Act would create a fully refundable tax credit for teachers, paraprofessionals, mental health providers, and school leaders in Title I schools.

The credit would also apply to educators as well as program providers and directors in Head Start, Early Head Start and child care and Development Block Grant-funded early childhood education programs.

Sen. Heinrich joined as a cosponsor and pointed out the shortages of teachers that impact students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

“I’m proud of the steps New Mexico has taken in recent years to increase salaries for public school teachers and education professionals. But it’s clear we need to do more to confront long-term educator workforce pipeline challenges. That includes providing our educators with the salaries they deserve and creating incentives like these tax credits to encourage more New Mexicans to both pursue and stay in careers that help prepare our children for success,” Heinrich said in a statement issued Friday.

Here is how the tax credits would work:

  • First year of employment: $5,800
  • Second continuous year: $5,800
  • Third and fourth years: $7,000
  • Fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth years: $8,700
  • 10th year: $11,600
  • 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th years: $8,700
  • 16th year: $7,000
  • 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th: $5,800

The RETAIN Act also allows for cost-of-living adjustments in future years, using an inflation-based formula. It would also prohibit state and local education agencies from reducing educator salaries or loan forgiveness if lawmakers enact this credit.

A study shows at least 300,000 public school teachers nationwide left the field between February 2020 and May 2022. In many low-income communities, especially, low pay, school leadership instability and poor teaching conditions are often cited. Those factors also lead to fewer experienced, qualified education professionals taking on key roles in these communities as teachers in low-income schools are often more underpaid than teachers in more affluent schools.

While New Mexico raised the minimum salary for teachers, there are reportedly 1,500 educator vacancies in the state, including 751 vacant teaching positions. That is according to the most recent New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report from NMSU.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are among the organizations supporting the RETAIN Act.