SANTA FE, N.M. – Teachers in New Mexico are in an uproar that Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill that would stop using the number of sick days they take as part of their performance evaluations. And now, state lawmakers are coming to their aid. House Bill 241 – nicknamed “Teachers Are Humans Too” – passed both the Senate and House, but wasn’t signed into law by the governor.
Sen. Craig Brandt is leading the charge to get the two-thirds majority needed from each chamber to overturn her decision. He calls the veto “fundamentally unfair.”
“We are currently punishing our teachers for being sick, which forces them to go to school sick and make their children sick,” he said. “I don’t think that’s healthy, for them or their students.”
Brandt adds that New Mexico is ranked forty-ninth nationally in terms of educational quality, which hasn’t changed since the governor took office in 2011. The state struggles with budget problems in addition to academic performance, which Martinez has been working to address.
Educators currently get 10 sick days each school year, and are disciplined with deductions from a point system that tracks their attendance. In a prepared statement about the veto, Gov. Martinez said she’s proud of the $3.6 billion saved last year from teachers taking less sick time, which includes money the state has to pay substitute teachers when others call in sick.
But Senator Brandt doesn’t like the trade-off.
“Does it save some money?” he asked. “Maybe, in the short term. But at what cost to the health, the morale and the well-being of our teachers?”
Brandt says he has the votes he needs to override the veto in the Senate and is working quickly to get them in House. If he gets the required two-thirds majority in both chambers, he says it would be the first override of a veto in the five years he’s been a state senator.
Author: Brett McPherson, Public News Service