“This truly is a sad day, not only for APS employees but also the children and working families in our communities that depend on our vital services.” – School Union President

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President, Ellen Bernstein at Teachers' Rally. The Candle File Photo.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation States School Board Members Sowed Disrespect, Falsehoods and Stereotypes in Handling of Educators Contract Vote

                                   

ALBUQUERQUE- In an unprecedented move, four members of the Albuquerque Public School Board voted to table the ratification of this year’s APS/ATF Negotiated Agreement.

“Let’s be clear,” says Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) President Ellen Bernstein, “this is the first time a public employer in New Mexico has ever refused to ratify a contract that was negotiated in good faith and overwhelmingly approved by the members of a bargaining unit. 22 years of respectful collaboration between the union and the district has been violated.”

Visibly exasperated, Bernstein adds, “I fail to see how any of this is in the best interest of our students.”

During the meeting, Board members Peggy Muller-Aragon, Courtney Jackson, Crystal Tapia-Romero, and Danielle Gonzales voted to suspend approval of the 2022-2023 contract. Not only did the four members refuse to ratify the agreement, they also used the meeting as an opportunity to publicly deride APS educators.

“The meeting was filled with disrespect, falsehoods and stereotypes of bad teachers doing a poor job,” says Bernstein.

On Thursday morning APS staff across the entire city went to work uncertain of what the future will bring. Educator Heather Greene took to Facebook to comment “How is it okay for us to be expected to work with no contract because the Board of Education wasn’t prepared to vote?”

ATF had spent over five months negotiating changes and additions to this year’s contract with the APS negotiating team. These changes included the largest pay raise in APS history for many educators. The district also made a commitment to ensure that all Essential and Related Services Educators – counselors, therapists, social workers, nurses and many more – receive equitable raises in comparison to their teacher colleagues in perpetuity, even if the state legislature allocates lower raise amounts for them.

Members of the ATF Bargaining Unit then overwhelmingly voted to approve the changes. 98.6% of the almost 3,500 educators who cast their ballots voted to ratify the contract changes.

An obvious win-win for both students and educators alike, ratification of the contract by the School Board felt like a shoo-in. Until it wasn’t.

“At hand is an issue of power,” says President Bernstein. “Some members of the Board of Education were clear that they believe we, the professional educators, are allowed to make too many decisions about how to teach. They say we have ‘taken’ their power. They want the Board of Education to have a monopoly over decision-making. They believe what we teach and how we teach should be scripted by textbooks approved of and purchased by them.”

“Make no mistake,” Bernstein warns, “this is a deliberate attempt to end a committed partnership between the union and the district established two decades.”

We believe that a collaborative partnership between the District and the Federation embodies the notion that an educational system based on the involvement of educators in the decision-making process will lead to the highest quality of education, enhance the practice of teaching, and foster human dignity for all at the school site. Furthermore, the parties believe that by working together, an atmosphere which promotes professional growth will be established (APS/ATF Negotiated Agreement page 6).

“This truly is a sad day, not only for APS employees but also the children and working families in our communities that depend on our vital services.”