Teachers could move up more quickly in the state’s three-tier licensure system and earn more money earlier in their careers under a bill pre-filed by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque.

However, only teachers rated “highly effective” or “exemplary” for two consecutive years under the state’s new teacher evaluation system would be allowed to move to the next level.

Speaking by phone Sunday, Moores said Senate Bill 91 “gets rid of the bureaucracy and rewards our better teachers by allowing them to make more money faster.”

But teacher union representatives warn this restriction will hurt efforts to recruit and retain teachers.

Betty Patterson, president of the NEA-New Mexico teachers’ union, said in an email Sunday that because the bill does not include teachers rated “effective”, along with highly effective and exemplary ones, it will deny “career advancement to teachers who have done their job well over three or more years” and “hurt New Mexico schools and students.”

She added, “It will force more teachers to leave the profession than are already doing so in the low-pay, extremely stressful work environment we have today.”

NEA representatives are also concerned that since the bill is tied to the state’s new teacher evaluation system, passing it would also enact into statute the system Gov. Susana Martinez implemented by departmental rule in 2012 after the Legislature failed to approve it. Under the plan, 50 percent of a teacher’s rating is based on student test scores and other growth measures. Teachers are rated exemplary, highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

Currently Level 1 teachers have to wait three years to apply to move to Level 2. Moores’ bill would reduce that to two years. A Level 2 teacher would then be able to move up to Level 3 within three years.

Starting teachers now earn $32,000 a year. Level 2 teachers earn $40,000 to start, while Level 3 teachers earn $50,000 to start. Under Moores’ bill, new teachers could, in theory, climb to Level 3 within five years.

The bill would also require teachers to renew their licenses every five years rather than every nine years.

The bill is practically a duplicate of Senate Bill 105 that Moores introduced in the 2014 session that didn’t get out of committee.

A February 2014 Legislative Education Study Committee bill analysis of SB 105 noted that about 1,100 teachers advance from tier to tier every year, costing school districts and charter schools about $11 million.

A national report released in early December noted that New Mexico teachers can earn their maximum pay within six or seven years but then often stagnate in the $52,000 to $55,000 range as yearly increases after that are often very small. Moores’ bill does not address that issue or change the salary levels of the three tiers.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.