Legislation to expand teacher scholarship eligibility passes first committee

Stephanie Montoya

Senate Bill 307 will help licensed teachers go back to school, advance careers  

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Higher Education Department lauded the passage of Senate Bill 307 on a vote of 6-0 from the Senate Education Committee on Friday to expand scholarships to help teachers go back to school and advance their careers. 

Senate Bill 307 – Licensed Teacher Preparation Affordability, sponsored by President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart and House Education Chairman G. Andrés Romero, expands eligibility for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship to pay for licensed teachers to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees. The scholarship is currently limited to students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree in teacher education and bachelor’s degree holders pursuing alternative licensure.   

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has recommended $5 million for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship in 2023, which can benefit students in teacher preparation programs at any New Mexico public college or university. Over 2,700 scholarships have been awarded since the program’s inception in 2019. 

“Expanding eligibility for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship will elevate the teachers we have while continuing to build the pipeline of new teachers entering the classroom and improving outcomes for New Mexico students,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “The state has made significant progress through better pay for teachers and reducing vacancies and this legislation is the next logical step toward solidifying the educator workforce.”  

While the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship was created to help address critical teacher shortages by training first-time teachers to enter the classroom, New Mexico successfully reduced teacher vacancies by 34 percent last year and increased teacher salary ranges to the highest level of any southwestern state. Attaining education beyond a bachelor’s degree can help teachers advance to licensure levels II and III, which provide average salaries of $60,000 to $70,000 per year.  

“New Mexico’s teachers are among the hardest working New Mexicans and extending the benefit of the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship to help them advance their careers is not only good for teachers and their families, but for our students who will benefit from having access to career educators in the classroom. This piece of legislation will create upward mobility for teachers to reach higher levels of licensure and support their graduate education so they can bring even greater value to the classroom,” said President Pro Tempore and bill sponsor Senator Mimi Stewart

“As an educator, I have seen firsthand the impact that well-trained teachers can have on students. I support this legislation because teachers deserve the opportunity to advance their careers not only for their benefit, but to improve outcomes for their students and ultimately, our state,” said House Education Chairman and bill sponsor Representative G. Andrés Romero. 

The legislation has the support of the New Mexico chapters of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA).  

“We fully support the expansion of the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship to those educators pursuing their master's- or doctoral-level degrees. Not only would attaining these degrees help an individual advance their licensure level, but expanding this scholarship is a direct investment in our educational workforce and could help support strong New Mexico educators who may eventually want to serve in an administrative role,” said AFT New Mexico President Whitney Holland. 

“Our union stands in strong support of this legislation which invests in the teacher workforce and will ultimately be an investment in our communities. The Licensed Teacher Preparation Affordability Act promotes continuous high-quality education in our teacher workforce, which will directly benefit our students. Any investment into education is money well spent,” said NEA-New Mexico President Mary Parr-Sanchez.