Sheehan, an NEA Director, as well as NEA-Las Cruces President, and an English Language Content Integration Specialist in Las Cruces Public Schools, has seen firsthand the myriad ways the Biden/Harris administration has bolstered the strength of New Mexico schools, communities, and families. Sheehan will speak about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed by President Biden in 2021 to support communities bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, which has ensured that schools across New Mexico were able to afford updated air filtration systems and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep educators and students safe as they returned to in-person learning. ARPA funds also allowed schools to hire attendance coaches, social workers, and behavioral support specialists, issue stipends to staff struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, and fund innovative initiatives like Santa Fe Public Schools’ childcare center for district employees.
Sheehan will also speak to the ways that the Biden-Harris Administration has delivered on its promises to the bring the country back after the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. As part of the Administration’s commitment to reopening schools safely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved flexibilities for school meal programs and child care institutions that ensured New Mexico students were provided breakfast and lunch throughout the pandemic. With nearly 40% of the state’s students facing food insecurity, these meals were a lifeline during the pandemic that continue even today.
The administration also followed through on President Biden’s campaign promise to alleviate the student debt burden worsening the already dire economic situation for many, by offering much-needed debt relief for middle and working-class individuals and fixing the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, thereby liberating many hard-working educators from crippling student loan debt.
Sheehan will also praise the administration for championing huge increases to federal funding for Community Schools, which has given two districts, Las Cruces and Santa Fe Public Schools, the opportunity to apply for grants from the federal Full-Service Community Schools Program. New Mexico educators know the critical role that Community Schools – schools that serve as a hub of the community – can play in meeting the in- and out-of-classroom needs of students and their families.
Looking to the future, Sheehan will also speak to the tremendous potential of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help transition New Mexico to green energy and shift the state away from its fossil fuel dependency – a transition which NEA-NM has long committed itself to. As the result of this Act, billions in federal dollars will go to improving and expanding renewable energy sources, spawning myriad environmental justice initiatives –a generation of new work, careers, and livelihoods that will be available to New Mexicans thanks to the investment of the Biden-Harris Administration.
- Steve Siañez, NEA-NM Communications/Government Relations Director
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