By Robert Nott
The New Mexican
A measure that would provide $2 million in tuition assistance for preschool teachers to further their education advanced in the state House on Wednesday, with unanimous approval from lawmakers on the Education Committee.
The money, which would come from the state's general fund, would help retain early childhood educators and allow them to command higher wages, said the bill's sponsors, Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences.
"This is directly tied to the quality of [the early childhood education] staff," Dow said during Wednesday's hearing on House Bill 135. She said the vast majority of educators who would benefit from the bill are women and minorities.
A 2016 report by the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services said preschool teachers in the U.S. earn an average of $28,570, far less than the average salary of a kindergarten teacher -- over $51,000 -- and less than the wages of waiters, janitors and pest-control workers.
As a result, said Baji Rankin, executive director of the New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children, retaining early childhood educators is a challenge.