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
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
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
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.