Lawmaker who is critic of public education sponsored the bill
A far-reaching bill to limit the salaries and contracts of public school superintendents died Saturday.
Members of the House Education Committee blocked the proposal on a bipartisan 6-4 vote.
The bill would have capped the annual base salary of school superintendents at $110,000 and restricted them to one-year contracts.
Four Democrats and two Republicans combined to derail the bill. One of their primary arguments against it was that the Legislature should not dictate how hometown school boards run their districts.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, right, R-Los Lunas, sponsored the bill. He said he did not want to micromanage school districts, but was concerned about the damage that occurs when a superintendent is fired and has two or more years remaining on his contract.
One-year contracts with a maximum of $110,000 in base salary would have better protected the taxpaying public, he said. As it stands, districts can be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance pay to superintendents, robbing classrooms of money, Baldonado said.
A critic of public education, Baldonado, 39, home-schools his three daughters. If he had his way, he said in an interview, he might do away with the existing system of public schools and start from scratch on a new model.
Baldonado chose $110,000 as the proposed maximum base salary for school superintendents because that is what the governor makes. His bill would have provided for supplemental compensation to superintendents, but it could not have exceeded 20 percent of their annual salary.
An analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee said the bill could have hurt New Mexico in recruiting and retaining quality superintendents. In particular, it would have put New Mexico at a disadvantage in competing with neighboring states, the analysis said.
The state Public Education Department said capping salaries would have saved districts $669,000 a year in base salaries.
Superintendents’ pay in New Mexico ranges from $78,000 to $256,000 a year.
Of the state’s 89 school districts, more than half have fewer than 1,000 students. But nearly 90,000 students — almost one-third of the state’s enrollment — attend the Albuquerque Public Schools.
Another criticism of Baldonado’s bill was it failed to consider differences in other compensation for superintendents, such as car, travel and housing allowances.
Fellow Republican Reps. Dennis Roch and David Gallegos voted against Baldonado’s bill as an intrusion on local control. Roch is a school administrator in Texico and Gallegos is a school board member in Eunice.
Though defeated on the bill, Baldonado said he was appreciative of the debate and glad that he had started a conversation about pay and length of contracts for superintendents. His proposal was House Bill 91.