Santa Fe Public Schools is excited to partner with its community as it embraces an approaching new year, with new realities and a new vision for the future.
We at the district are deeply grateful to Santa Fe’s voters for passing the general obligation bond and mill levy, which will impact all students through building renovations, expanded sustainability efforts like solar energy and outdoor classrooms, high air quality and so much more.
Our community is on the precipice of responding to another critical need — the impact of Santa Fe’s high cost of living on educators and other district staff. To deliver a high-quality education to students, the district must address this reality. Otherwise, it cannot realize its promise to students.
By tackling this issue, Santa Fe can strengthen its regional, statewide and national recognition as a place that values investing in its educators and high-quality learning and become a prime destination for teachers and other critical staff.
Under the leadership of President Kate Noble, the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education in November unanimously passed a staffing crisis resolution that holds the potential of retaining the over 50 percent of educators surveyed in August by NEA-Santa Fe who are concerned about their ability to continue working in Santa Fe due to rising housing costs. More than 400 district educators were surveyed.
With the median home price in Santa Fe County at $600,000, 35 percent higher than last year, and some rentals ranging from $2,000 to $4,000, we must act now.
As Noble said at the board meeting, if district staff cannot live and work in Santa Fe, we lose our community.
The city and community are to be commended for constructing thousands more apartment units. It is heartening to see new housing springing up virtually everywhere.
The new apartment buildings will put a much-needed dent in the housing demand, particularly if rental costs are affordable. But renting requires paying a big chunk of money upfront, which is extremely costly for a teacher earning on average $53,000.
Our hope is to immediately hone in on the critical housing needs of educators and staff. Those committed to addressing this are growing, which is exciting.
Many city councilors have endorsed a companion resolution by City Councilor Signe Lindell; school board Vice President Rudy Garcia will bring a companion resolution forth as a member of the County Commission; and the NEA-Santa Fe, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition are central leaders. The coalition will serve as the convening and facilitation body for developing housing solutions to resolve this crisis.
There’s more. We’re in discussion with the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department on the possibility of the district providing child care for staff. Consider that educators’ average monthly child care cost reported to NEA-Santa Fe is $954.
Salaries must continue to be a high legislative priority. The school board met with Santa Fe’s legislative delegation this month to request a 10 percent increase in educators’ salaries, which will go a long way toward making the district competitive with surrounding states and keeping educators in Santa Fe.
So often we hear educators are drawn to teaching to make a difference. We need compensation and community support to also be top of mind when someone chooses education as a career.
Santa Fe can be the prototype for attracting educators by placing their needs for affordable housing, supportive services and well-paying jobs at the forefront.
Let’s continue to work together to embrace our educators and learning.