As a former teacher himself, Howie Morales has skin in the education game. Since taking office in January as New Mexico's lieutenant governor, he's been one of …
As a former teacher himself, Howie Morales has skin in the education game. Since taking office in January as New Mexico's lieutenant governor, he's been one of the drivers behind Gov. Lujan Grisham's $500 million Education Moonshot. Morales was in Taos on Monday (Aug. 12) to help district administrators and teachers kick off the new academic year and urge them to keep students at the center of what they do.
"It has been a long and bitter decade for New Mexico's public schools," Morales said to the approximately 400 teachers, staff and administrators assembled in Taos Middle School's auditorium. "But the winds of change are blowing now under the leadership of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful and I am optimistic about the future of our classrooms. We have our work cut out for us."
Morales focused on the reasons for optimism, reminding attendees of the 6 percent pay increase passed by the state legislature for teachers, education assistants, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and janitors. He touched on the recently dumped PARCC test for assessing student proficiency and the discontinued A-to-F school grading system, decrying them as failures of the last administration.
The lieutenant governor also promised a change in culture at New Mexico's Public Education Department. "From now on, when schools are struggling, PED will be there to help lift them up, not shut them down. We are there to collaborate and cooperate and to help. The bad old days are gone."
Morales went on to mention vocational and technical opportunities that PED has created for kids who may not want to go to college. He also described a new Cabinet-level department that will focus on early childhood education and child care in the state.
"When kids show up for school, we want them to be ready to learn," he said, "and this will go a long way."
In a phone call with the Taos News Monday afternoon, Morales said he felt buoyed up by the people he met at the meeting. "There was energy, there was eagerness, there was a willingness to begin the school year," he said of the Taos educators. "I come from Silver City, which is about the same size as Taos, so I understand the dynamic here."
This was Morales' fourth visit to Taos as lieutenant governor.
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