NM governor sets off firestorm with attack on teachers


by Félix Pérez/image courtesy of Steve Terrell

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, often mentioned as a tailor-made candidate for national office, set off a firestorm last week when secretly taped discussions revealed she thought teachers are paid too much.

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Martinez, in the final year of her first term as governor, said in a campaign strategy meeting, “During the campaign, we can’t say it, I guess, because it’s education, but I really keep going back to that . . . keeping the teachers from feeling the pain when they already don’t work, you know, two and a half months out of the year or three months out of the year but earn salaries at the same rate of people who do work 12 months a year.”

Teachers found the remarks demeaning and said they reflect Martinez’s lack of understanding of the profession.

Betty Patterson, Las Cruces teacher and president of NEA-New Mexico, said:

The work of educating a new generation is so much more than ‘just a job,’ and we deserve more respect from our governor. The public should not be deceived.

According to data for 2012-13, New Mexico ranks 47th in the nation in teacher salary. New Mexico teachers earn 81% of the national average salary for teachers.

“Very few teachers work only nine months, very few get paid as if they worked twelve months,” said Patterson. “Most teachers use the summer for professional development, to learn new curriculum and to write curriculum for their districts. We also work on lesson plans and collaborative planning with peers . . .  During the nine months teachers work directly with students, we put in endless hours beyond what is paid or expected.”

Martinez did not apologize for the remarks or dispute their accuracy. Instead, she ridiculed Mother Jones, the magazine in which they were published, for “peddling false, personal attacks against me.”

The comments about teachers were part of a wide-ranging story in which Martinez, who has carefully cultivated an image as a straight-shooter, and her staff attack the state’s women’s commission, a Hispanic chamber of commerce and her opponents, at times using profane, graphic language.

The governor used the article to raise campaign donations. The pitch raised $15,000 in the first few hours, according to a Tweet from Martinez.

Reader Comments

  1. As a teacher I feel that the governor needs to take a look at exactly what hours teachers actually work.. I don’t go into work at 7:30 and I don’t leave at 3:00 like my contract states. I get to work well before 7 a.m. and I leave after 3 everyday some days after 4 but it doesn’t stop there I take work home with me. Planning doesn’t happen in an hour it takes time and I work at home on lesson plans and resources I would need to teach the next week.
    Do I complain about being a teacher NEVER! I love what I do but I will complain about people who don’t have a clue. I choose to be a teacher and love my profession and I have never said don’t evaluate me. But don’t tell me I make to much money for being off two months in the summer. I work those days too getting my class ready for the next year. Our education secretary doesn’t have a clue of what it takes to be a teacher and these days the ones I feel most sorry for are the students and all the over testing that we throw at them. They want to learn and have fun doing it but having fun isn’t in the standards and it’s not on the PARCC assessment. It’s a challenge these days to try and get students engaged in school because its all about the test and that’s all the state sees.
    Love teaching Hate over testing kids.

    1. I was married to a teacher for 15 years, and I know for a fact that teachers DO NOT WORK for three months out of the year. They do a lot of whining about not getting paid enough, while indoctrinating our children. BTW, it’s “too much,” but I guess proper English is too much to expect from a teacher.

  2. I love all these teachers stroking their own ego here. FIRST OFF, I truly believe teachers should get paid more for what they do. But, they should not complain about what they do because they choose that profession. Doctors complain about the board overseeing them, but everyone for the most part agrees that’s a good thing. What’s wrong with teachers having accountability too?

    1. Clearly you haven’t a clue the level of scrutiny educators experience. I can assure you’d very much resent the invasive, disruptive, negative perceptual lens multiple times a year. My brother is a doc of some distinction. We often compare experiences. There is nothing comparable in your profession. High expectations, low support, and moving targets. Just so you know, I take home $731.00 dollars twice a month. Ego? I can’t afford one. I’m the poor relation. I’d settle for a livable wage. Get off your high horse.

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