SANTA FE — The New Mexico Higher Education Department and lawmakers are seeking to expand financial aid programs aimed at supporting New Mexicans pursuing degrees leading to teacher licensure.
A total of $6 million is recommended to sustain and expand three existing programs including:
- Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarship;
- Teacher Preparation and Affordability Scholarship; and
- Teacher Loan Repayment Program.
“Improving educational outcomes for all New Mexicans is vital, and we must work together to support aspiring educators and fill current vacancies,” Acting Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “Great teachers create great students and expanding these scholarship and loan-for-service programs is a vote of support for both our educators and our children.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Higher Education Department are seeking an additional $2.2 million for the Teacher Preparation and Affordability Scholarship and the Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which are currently funded at $2.8 million. Another $1 million is recommended for the Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarship program.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Joy Garratt seeks to expand eligibility criteria for the Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarship, which aims to increase the number of educational assistants pursuing paths to teacher licensure. House Bill 22 amends the Grow Your Own Teachers Act to include eligibility for all school employees in teaching assistant positions and ensures professional leave is available to anyone in these positions pursuing bachelor’s degrees in education.
Currently, the Act restricts eligibility to school staff who have “educational assistant” in their job description, but some districts use different descriptions for the role. The bill also amends the act to include individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States, rather than requiring citizenship for eligibility.
“No one knows their local school communities better than our hard-working educational assistants and instructional aides, who deserve the opportunity to add to the teacher pipeline in their district,” Rep. Garratt said. “House Bill 22 expands this scholarship opportunity to those who have worked with students for at least two years, whether or not their job title names them an educational assistant.”
The Grow Your Own Teachers and the Teacher Preparation Affordability scholarships were established by the New Mexico Legislature in 2019 to defray costs for students of teacher education programs leading to licensure at state public colleges and universities. Both scholarships consider student need, and can award up to $6,000 per academic year to cover tuition, fees, books, and other educational costs.
Nearly 150 Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarships and 677 Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarships have been awarded since 2019. More than 530 current and aspiring educators have benefitted from the Teacher Loan Repayment program since 2019, which pays up to $6,000 at the end of each school year with a two-year minimum teaching commitment.
“Excellent, highly skilled teachers are key to an excellent education system, and programs like these motivate educators to invest their time to become true masters of their profession. When teachers engage in professional learning and earn higher degrees, they become leaders in their schools, passing what they’ve learned on to others. So offering scholarships and loan repayment assistance is the least we can do as a state to help them help our students,” said Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart.
“I commend Representatives Garratt, Lara and Figueroa, Senator Padilla, and Acting Secretary Rodriguez for their leadership on this legislation and recognizing the importance of developing our educational workforce,” said Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky. “These additional opportunities create a pipeline of professional development at institutions of higher education that boosts the financial stability of educational assistants themselves and ultimately benefits all the children they serve.”
According to a report by New Mexico State University, New Mexico had 571 teacher vacancies in 2020. Elementary and special education teachers were in highest demand, as was Math as a subject area of specialization. Last year, 927 students completed an educator preparation program in New Mexico.
Courtesy: LA Daily Post