Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Shock to teachers union in Albuquerque election, Bijou wins

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — The teachers union in New Mexico’s largest city will have fewer friends on the school board next year, as three board candidates won Tuesday’s election without union support.

Preliminary election results show that three out of four school board seats were won by candidates funded by professional groups and not teachers’ unions, the Albuquerque Journal reports..

“There’s going to be a new dynamic across the board. We’ll see if the board is divided on important issues, especially issues that pertain to the interests of their employees,” said Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein.

Albuquerque Public Schools is the largest district in the state, serving approximately 74,000 students, about 20% of the children in New Mexico. It operates on a budget of $1.6 billion and has a full-time staff of approximately 12,600 employees.

Municipal elections across the state set the school board elections and the mayor’s contest on Tuesday.. Voters in most towns approved property taxes and bonds to pay for schools, including $630 million for Albuquerque schools.

Non-Union candidates received funding from Professional groups including NAIOP The Commercial Real Estate Development Association and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. Races are non-partisan and do not have primary.

“The Board of Education should be a children’s union,” said Republican Courtney Jackson, a stay-at-home mom and school PTA leader.

Jackson said teacher interests are important, but was angered by school board meetings this spring that undermined student needs and delayed school reopenings. “Their interests were not brought even once, even when the state government said it was safe to go back to school.”

Business groups played a large role in helping candidates such as the Jackson campaign, while state GOP involvement was minimal. Democrat Danielle Gonzales, a nonprofit manager, relied on those same groups. So did Crystal Tapia-Romero, owner of a child care center that is not registered with any political party.

“NAIOP has been amazing with me. Teachers union, not so much,” Tapia-Romero said. “But I look forward to working with him.”

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One union candidate won: Democrat Josefina Dominguez, a retired teacher. He attributed the loss of his allies to changes in election timing, which allowed for more turnout, as well as an influx of funds from groups such as the NAIOP, which supported more candidates than in the past.

“I take the long-term look. I think in the end, more participation is good. In this particular case. It costs the union its slate,” Dominguez said.

As a group focused on commercial real estate, NAIOP attracts members from across the building business, such as brokers, architects and engineers. It is in the group’s interest to promote good schools, to attract out-of-state businesses and professionals.

But the group says that if members don’t get involved for a disappointing pandemic school year and a corruption scandal involving a state legislator and school administrator.

“They all had kids in public schools here. So it just wanted more transparency, wanted more strategic goals, wanted you to know, more ability to have a voice as a parent,” said New Mexico NAIOP President Lynn Andersen.

Anderson and Dominguez share a similar idea for comprehensive education reform.

Both want to see trade apprenticeships more common in an education system they believe has focused almost exclusively on college preparation.

“We, as a nation, I think have a tendency to denigrate trades. And I think it is a disservice to our children,” Anderson said.

“Putting students to learn plumbing or electrical work, or, you know, carpentry, I’d love to see that expanded to our neighborhood schools,” Dominguez said.

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This article has been corrected to reflect that NAIOP has endorsed school board candidates in the past, not as of this year, and to correct the title of people selling commercial real estate; They are brokers, not real estate agents.

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Attanasio is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. report for america is a non-profit national service program that hires journalists in local newsrooms to report on the issues covered. Follow Attanasio Twitter.

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