As a Santa Fe Public Schools middle school math teacher for 13 years and counting, and a parent of a second grader enrolled in a public school, I am elated to see increased funding from the state and federal level for public education.
Our public education system has been undercut for years and blamed for failing children and communities, leading to increased segregation while families who can, choose to move their kids to charter or private schools. So let me share my dismay at reading (“Schools Plan routine, innovative use of stimulus,” March 18) and learning how local superintendents plan to spend stimulus money upgrading HVAC systems and after-school programs.
Notably absent from their list of priorities: a dramatic increase in highly paid, highly motivated, licensed full-time teachers. We need to nearly double our regular teaching faculty and school staff.
What kids need more than math or reading lessons is undivided attention from a caring grown-up while they are at school. They need teachers who know them, believe in them, and who demonstrate how much they value and care for them. This requires time and energy. If increased cash flow to our public education system can give teachers more time to care for and care about their students, it would be a big win for everyone.
With many more teachers working during the regular school day, we will see a dramatic difference in our children’s education and daily school experience. In a state where we cannot fill our existing vacancies (500-600 unfilled in 2019), it is a tall order to double our teaching staff, but New Mexico is getting $979 million to help figure it out. We must find, recruit and retain new teachers. We must also keep the good teachers our state already has.
I’ve read many articles that mention “reimagining” education, and that is just what we need while we are revamping our teaching staff. We don’t want more of the same, and no one really wants to go back to “normal.” What we had before did not serve our students or our communities, so if we reimagine education in this moment, double our faculty and staff, and have the courage and faith to see it through, we will have a new day in public education. Maybe some of the students now enrolled in private schools will come back and join us. Maybe our kids’ faces will light up when they talk about school again.
You have a right to expect this much from our public education system. Kids deserve teachers who have the time and space to listen to them. Teachers should be able to respond to the daily highs and lows of the children they teach. We need smaller class sizes, time to plan, time to teach and sort through all we are given. We need good leadership and a healthy imagination. I urge all of our state and local school leaders to use these funds to increase teachers’ available time, not to tack on more after-school and summer programs as Band-Aids to cover up the wounds in our regular school days.