- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Santa Fe public school teachers and staff are expected to get nearly $5 million in bonuses as part of a pilot program that some of them have criticized.

Santa Fe Public Schools are getting the payments as part of a merit-based system approved by lawmakers last year. Some teachers had opposed the program, arguing it placed too much focus on state standardized tests when gauging a teacher’s success.

Nearly 900 teachers, administrators and other staff opted into the incentive program while 27 declined, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/1LaK1Y3 ). Some of those who joined said that despite their criticism, they simply could not afford to pass up the money.

Teachers have received bonuses ranging from more than $100 to more than $10,000.

Superintendent Joel Boyd said the payments were a step in the right direction. The district has also raised teachers’ salaries at an average of 4 percent through teachers union negotiations, Boyd added.

“We’re making progress,” Boyd said. “But we’re not there yet.”

State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said teachers with students who are showing success deserve a reward. “Our kids can learn more and achieve more when we place and keep quality educators in every school and every classroom in New Mexico,” she said in a prepared statement.

National Education Association New Mexico spokesman Charles Goodmacher said he still believes the criteria for handing out bonuses is flawed. “Every teacher knows someone that didn’t get an evaluation that was appropriate,” Goodmacher said.

Teacher evaluations have been the source of division since Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration introduced them. They have spawned several lawsuits against the state Public Education Department.

A state district judge denied a motion by the department last week to dismiss a lawsuit over the agency’s handling of the evaluation system. The Albuquerque Teachers Federation and the American Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit earlier this year saying the evaluation system was punitive and based on flawed methodology. The lawsuit is now clear to continue.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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