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Public Education Department Tramples on Legislation and Ignores Real Issues

Commentary:

New Mexicans across all races, diverse and unique backgrounds, and

geographically wide zip codes from Aztec to Alamogordo, want our students

engaged in learning and attending school every single day. We want students to

graduate from our public education system ready to thrive in college, their chosen

profession and, ultimately, life in general. Student engagement and attendance

and a stable educator work force are THE topics that need to be focused upon.

However, for years now, the NM Public Education Department (NMPED) and

powerful members of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) have been narrowly

(and erroneously) focused on extended learning time as the primary means to

“fix” many of our academic woes. Unfortunately, this approach excludes other

necessary and vital ways to help our students progress in school. These aspects

include reduced class sizes, smaller caseloads for special educators, decreased

time and resources spent on standardized testing, increased planning time for

educators to allow for quality preparation and delivery of instruction,

understanding student disengagement, addressing chronic absenteeism,

resourcing mental health issues, and paying more for continually rising educator

health care costs, to stabilize the workforce-to name a few.

Recently, NM Public Education Secretary Romero wrote, “… Students statewide

have low reading and math proficiencies. This is unacceptable. It is time for

accountability: for the Public Education Department, for the school districts

(including their boards and schools), charter schools, teachers’ unions and

families…”

During the 2023, Legislative Session, a new Bill was passed that increased the

number of hours students needed to be in school from approximately 1000 hours

to 1,140 hours. After discussion, debate and compromise, by the education

community HB 130 was passed and signed into law by the Governor.

Not even 5 months into the new school year, the NMPED Secretary is announcing

that more changes are now coming to district calendars through rulemaking, or

changes which are not in the law. These changes would require all school districts

to enact 180 student day calendars for students, with many more days for

educators.

Legislation that mandated additional school days was not enacted because it

doesn’t fix the lack of resources that currently exists. Mary Daniel Montoya, 6th

grade teacher states, “Every day that I’m at school, not supported and not able to

do my best work, hurts. We got into this profession because we want to serve

kids. We’re here trying to compensate by staying late, working outside our

contract day, trying to meet every need…It’s broken some of us.” We can all agree

that learning is threatened without the presence of a highly qualified, experienced

work force and that we can make the right investments into public education that

attracts educators rather than drive them away.

Now, we must work together to give HB 130 time to take effect and show results.

We must collectively raise our voice to the NMPED to stop the rule change that

mandates 180 student days, and many more teacher days, because they are

attempting to coerce this action by force (of rule) The Public Education

Department is turning a deaf ear to the input of those who must live with their

shortsighted actions. 

Mary Parr-Sanchez is a 32-year veteran educator and President of NEA-New Mexico. Parr-Sanchez’s opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.

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