SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say they’re making funds available to mid-level public school teachers to cover the cost of continuing education certifications that can lead to a significant salary increase.
The Public Education Department said Thursday it will cover the approximately $2,000 cost of pursuing National Board Certified Teacher credentials to become a “Level 3” teacher. The state legislature designated $500,000 toward the scholarships in 2021.
Teachers who complete the certification are eligible for a nearly $7,000 pay increase. About 25 teachers immediately applied for the scholarship.
“When a New Mexico teacher earns this distinguished credential, our children, our communities and our state benefit,” PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a statement. “We can’t do that work for them, but we can and we are eliminating the burden of cost.”
School districts across the state struggle to attract and retain teachers with below-average compensation and issues of isolation in remote communities.
Teacher salary increases were reined into 1% for the current school year in response to the economic downturn from the coronavirus, as educators pay for unexpected expenses related to the pivot to online learning.
Schools have looked to immigrant teacher placement programs to fill the gap with foreign staff, mostly citizens of the Philippines on temporary worker visas. They would not be eligible for the scholarship due to the definitions of residency in the statue, the PED said.
One Albuquerque public school teacher who completed the certification last year told the Associated Press it was the only way she could afford private childcare, a necessity in a two-teacher home at a time when public schools in the district are remote-only.
First-grade teacher Julia Hoover said she used the pathway to become a master teacher as an alternative to the approximately $15,000 debt she would have taken on for a master’s degree.
“It is a lot of work,” said Hoover, adding that it was great for her professional development. “Before, I looked at my teaching but I didn’t know how to reflect on it to move forward.”
She applauded the scholarship announcement and encouraged her fellow teachers to apply, adding that districts such as Albuquerque provide additional supports and pay incentives for the certification.
“This scholarship is an example of the way New Mexico supports teachers,” said Julia Hoover. “It makes it a little bit more attainable.”
To qualify, teachers must hold a level two certification, teach at a public or charter school in the state, and be a New Mexico resident.
Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.
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