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"Take Back Our Public Schools" Rally Planned At NM Legislature

PHOTO: A rally at the New Mexico Legislature on Saturday is being held to urge lawmakers to keep education funding as a top priority. Photo courtesy of the NM Legislature.
PHOTO: A rally at the New Mexico Legislature on Saturday is being held to urge lawmakers to keep education funding as a top priority. Photo courtesy of the NM Legislature.
February 13, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. - Organizers are hoping that a rally at the New Mexico Legislature on Saturday sends a clear message to lawmakers that funding education is critical to improving the state's last-place ranking in child well-being. The National Education Association (NEA) of New Mexico is staging the "Take Back Our Public Schools" event at 2 p.m.

Charles Goodmacher, government relations director, NEA of New Mexico, said the message is centered on urging legislators to not cut education funding.

"A great deal of legislative business happens in the last-minute compromises and so forth that take place at the legislature in the last hours," Goodmacher said. "We are hoping to make a big impression on the legislators that they should not make any more compromises."

Goodmacher said major funding priorities include reducing class sizes and increasing resources for early childhood reading. According to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report, New Mexico ranks 50th in the nation for children's well-being based on economics, education, health and family.

Gov. Susana Martinez's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes $100 million in new funding for merit-based teacher raises and other education initiatives. Goodmacher urged the governor and lawmakers to give all teachers and support staff an across-the-board 3 percent pay increase.

"It's been over five years since teachers have had any kind of a raise, and in fact their paychecks have gone down, as we have also paid more into retirement and insurance," he explained.

Another key issue is state versus local control of education money, he said, adding that it is better for local schools to determine spending because each school and district has its own set of needs, which may not fit into the state's one-size-fits-all education model.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM