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 Apr 12 - 18, 2018 
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Teacher Raises Cause Confusion

The News Monkey

School districts across the state are struggling to interpret legislation that increases teachers' salaries.

Earlier this year, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the state budget, which included a minimum starting salary for new teachers of $36,000 per year—up from the current $34,000 per year—and a 2.5 percent pay increase for all teachers. The new rates will go into effect starting in the fall.

But school officials have been debating how to interpret the new standards. Chief Financial Officer for Albuquerque Public Schools Tami Coleman told the Albuquerque Journal last week that there are two ways the law can be understood: All teachers with a salary below the $36,000 mark will have their salaries raised to that point, after which the 2.5 percent raise will be calculated; or all teachers will receive the 2.5 percent raise, and then any who haven't reached the $36,000 mark will have their salaries raised. According to early estimates, the first option would cost APS in excess of an extra $3 million.

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, who sponsored the bill causing confusion, told reporters the intent of the bill was to bring the salaries up to the $36,000 per year mark first, and then add the 2.5 percent raise afterward. Stewart blamed the confusion happening at the district level on the Public Education Department's failure to give proper direction.

In a statement, PED said its “message to the field has been consistent,” but has made plans to give additional guidance to any districts that require it.

State Rep. Accused of Hiding Contracts

A state congressional candidate allegedly failed to disclose large real estate contracts with state agencies over the last five years, possibly violating state law.

According to the Associated Press, Herrell Properties—allegedly listed as being owned by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo—has made around $440,000 since 2013 by renting property to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department and New Mexico Environment Department. Herell failed to note the contracts on ethics disclosure statements, despite legal requirements to annually report all “goods and services in excess of $5,000” gathered from state agencies to the secretary of state’s office. A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office reportedly claimed that officials were unaware of the contracts.

Herell publicly denied the claims, saying she was only a partner in the company and did not personally receive the funds. Herell is seeking the Republican nomination for a US Congressional seat.

By law, if it's determined that Herell “knowingly and willfully” violated the state’s financial disclosure act, she could face a $1,000 fine or a year in jail. The secretary of state’s office might also require her to meet with an independent arbitrator and pay fines of up to $5,000. It is unclear if Herell is currently under investigation by the state's Attorney General's office.

 
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