Opinion: Teacher Ranks Have Grown as Enrollment's Dropped in New Mexico Schools

Daniella Cressman

New Mexico is notorious for having a horrible education system: it's ranked 50th in the country as of this year—dead last.

That being said, this rating is referring solely to public schools, but it is quite expensive for parents to pay for a private education for their kids, further illustrating the income inequality issue in this state.

Thankfully, a lot more teachers have been hired in the Land of Enchantment.

"'While enrollments have decreased over the past five years, the total number of public school teachers in New Mexico grew by 996 … including 470 teachers in charter schools,' analysts wrote in a hearing brief. They clarified to the Journal that the number referred to full-time teachers and included those such as special education teachers." —Esteban Candelaria

Vacant positions in schools have significantly decreased.

"While complete vacancy numbers were not immediately available for APS on Friday, analysts said the district told the Legislative Finance Committee that open positions in elementary schools are down to around 30, and special education openings neared 120 — down from 276 last year. An APS spokeswoman noted open positions are often fluid." —Esteban Candelaria

Unfortunately, there are still not enough educators when it comes to specialized positions, such as special needs teachers, math instructors, and bilingual individuals who can teach students a foreign language.

It seems that the issue of education in New Mexico has not been solely solved by the increase in educators: it is problematic that there are not enough of the right teachers for specific forms of instruction.

Furthermore, it appears that a lot of parents are scared of sending their children to school due to the extreme amount of mass shootings that have taken place in 2022 alone.

“We have a lot of educators available to educate our students...The issue, though, is do you have the right teachers, in the right schools, teaching the right students?” —Sunny Liu (Fiscal Analyst)

Another problem is that teachers tend to get hired with very little experience and quit sooner than later.

"One symptom of New Mexico’s difficulties with its educator workforce is that, according to preliminary data, teachers have begun to come with a little less experience and stick around for a bit less time. In 2019, research showed, teachers averaged nearly 12 years of experience and had put in an average of about eight years with their districts. By 2021, those numbers had dropped slightly to just under 11 years of experience and about 7 ½ years with districts." —Esteban Candelaria

Investments have been made that seem to be attracting more teachers. Hopefully, there will be an increase in educators who are experienced and well-suited for the necessary specialized positions.

On the plus side, teacher retention and candidates for jobs may be looking up for the upcoming school year. Analysts said many districts are seeing improvements in those categories — such as APS, which told the LFC that retirements went from around 500 in 2020 to 50 this year. Also helpful are investments in school leadership — the Legislature appropriated $2.5 million to support professional development for principals in 2023 — as well as in educators. Analysts cited more support for teacher residency programs, which received $15.5 million in funds from lawmakers in 2022." —Esteban Candelaria

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM

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