New Mexico introduces bill to increase pay for Native American language instructors

The New Mexico Legislature has moved forward a bill which would give Native American language instructors a fairly significant pay increase — for some, even triple their current pay.

House Bill (HB) 60 would essentially allow fluent speakers of Native American languages the opportunity to receive a teacher’s salary without needing a teaching credential — currently, instructors of Native American languages in the state are allowed to teach without a teaching credential, however they are not paid as much as credentialed teachers. The New Mexico House Appropriations and Finance Committee is set to take a look at the bill this afternoon.

More specifically, Native American tribes and pueblos would be able to set criteria for a “Native American language and culture certificate” to be administered to fluent speakers of the local Native American languages. These certificates are specifically geared toward language instructors who are not credentialed. Once administered, HB 60 would require the public school system to pay individuals with the certificate a full teacher’s salary. 

“The minimum annual salary for a person holding a Native American language and culture certificate shall be equal to the minimum annual salary for a level two licensed teacher,” the bill reads.

Currently, most of the non-credentialed instructors of indigenous languages make minimum wage — $11.50 per hour in the state — according to a report from the Associated Press. Under HB 60, their salary would increase significantly: Currently, a teacher’s salary in New Mexico is $50,000 per year. However, the Associated Press writes that it’s likely to be increased to $60,000 in the coming year. This increase would double — or even triple — the wages of indigenous language instructors in the state.

Given that New Mexico is one of the states with the largest populations of Native Americans in the country, this would be a major win for Native American groups across the country. HB 60 appears to have bipartisan support, with both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature’s Education Committee voting 9-1 to advance the bill on Feb. 2.


Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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