(Washington, DC) – New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales today spoke during a panel discussion in Washington, DC with education leaders from across the United States about the crisis hitting the teacher profession, its negative effects on classrooms, and how to fix it.  Morales pointed to the recent bold actions in the 2019 Legislature, pushed successfully by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, as an example for other states and federal policy makers to follow.  The panel debate, held at the National Press Club, followed a speech by AFT President Randi Weingarten about the hollowing out the teaching profession nation-wide, driven by the massive disinvestment in public education and the deprofessionalization of teaching.   Weingarten, Morales and other public education advocates detailed solutions to combat the crisis, namely by funding our future and securing the freedom to teach.

“In a very short period of time, New Mexico has begun to turn around our public school classrooms that were ranked at the bottom of nearly every national ranking.  It is all happening because we got bold new leadership in our state – that is key.   Other states who want to improve their public schools should take note and follow our example of investing in classrooms and educators.  Our priority now is also that our public education department is a service department, a resource department to help students succeed.  We should not be funding our schools out of a sense of obligation. We should be funding our schools because it is the right thing to do,” Lt. Governor Morales said.

Weingarten called for the freedom to teach, proposing pragmatic, tangible actions that are enabled by the 2015 federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. These actions, which could be legislated or negotiated at the school, district or national levels, will change the culture so that the teaching profession is marked by trust, respect and the freedom to teach and focus on three essential areas: developing a culture of collaboration, creating and maintaining proper teaching and learning conditions, and ensuring teachers have voice and agency befitting their profession.

“We have 740 vacant teacher positions in New Mexico today.  That didn’t happen by accident. When you take away autonomy and creativity, and stigmatize educators as failures – as has happened here until now – it’s no wonder that those passionate individuals find a new profession.  Whether you’re a teacher, a PSRP, a bus driver, or school support staffer, you are an educator – and you deserve respect and a fair paycheck for your hard work. No educator should have to work a second job,” Morales added.

For more information on the AFT policy proposals on teaching presented today, visit www.aft.org