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New Mexico spending bill impacts public education

The 2018 New Mexico legislative session has come and gone and has left the state with new legislation.  Legislators made several decisions impacting public education, including changes to the lottery scholarship, a 2 percent raise for higher education faculty and an increase in K-12 teacher minimum salaries.

One bill made changes to lottery scholarship awards. Before this bill, recipients received 60 percent of tuition through the scholarship. Now the lottery scholarship awards $1,500 per semester to students who are enrolled at a research institution, $1,200 per semester to students who are enrolled at a comprehensive institution, and $380 per semester to students enrolled at a community college. The amount awarded is subject to change depending on the amount of funds available.

To qualify for the lottery scholarship, a student must have graduated from a New Mexico high school or have a New Mexico high school equivalency credential. To claim the scholarship, a student must be enrolled in a four-year university and must complete at least 15 credits his or her first semester with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, or be enrolled at a two-year institution and complete at least 12 credits with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

To renew the scholarship, a student must maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA and take the required credits per semester (15 credits for a four-year institution and 12 credits for a two-year institution).

The lottery scholarship assists thousands of students at New Mexico State, however, students around NMSU aren’t always aware of legislative issues and other changes that directly affect them.

“If the [legislature] has issues that relate to students, then the students should be made aware by the university,” said NMSU student Natalie Morales. This could help students become more aware of issues that directly relate to them and also other issues that are going on throughout the state.

In addition to the lottery scholarship changes, university faculty members and exempt staff can expect a 2 percent merit-based raise. Hourly staff will receive a $1,000 flat compensation increase. This is a part of the same bill that gives K-12 teachers a 2.5 percent pay raise and higher minimum starting salaries for K-12 teachers.

Under the new spending bill, state police and corrections officers will receive an 8.5 percent annual pay increase. The bill passed easily with a 65-3 vote in the House of Representatives and a 40-2 vote in the Senate. The bill increases public education spending by $61 million.

Sara Morales, a former teacher and senior program manager with Mathematically Connected Communities, or MC2, is a proponent of higher salaries for teachers.

“If we compensated teachers with higher pay, they would have more of an incentive to continue doing the good things that they are already doing,” Morales said.

Governor Martinez was able to take care of issues that required her attention during her final legislative session as New Mexico governor. To wrap it all up, the 2018 legislation session was the last for Governor Susana Martinez, and it resulted in new legislation and a new bipartisan spending bill that will significantly impact public education in New Mexico.

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