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ALBUQUERQUE, N.N. (AP) — Retirements of teachers and other public education employees in New Mexico spiked by 40% this year, and the pandemic is thought to be one of a number of possible causes for the spike, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The state Educational Retirement Board reports handling 1,269 applications for July 1 retirement this year, up from 906 the year before and the largest number in seven years.

Albuquerque Public Schools reported a similar retirement wave among a group of employees that includes teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors.

July 1 is the start of the state fiscal year which often coincides with teacher contracts.

Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders, said the pandemic might be a factor, while Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Johanna King said exit interviews “show many reasons for retiring, including health reasons, feeling overworked, leaving New Mexico, and not liking remote teaching.”

Rep. G. Andrés Romero, chairman of the state House Education Committee, said the retirement spike is a concern and that officials will try to determine how to improve retention.

Romero said the rising cost of health insurance has been a topic of conversation among teachers, in addition to challenges caused by the pandemic.

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