Lujan Grisham faces fury from all sides amid attempted NMPED rule change

New Mexico’s public education department faced a barrage of opinions from over 100 individuals expressing their concerns about proposed changes to the school calendar. These changes, mandated by legislation from the last session, aim to increase instructional time in public New Mexico schools.

One resident, Ronald Dixon, a grandparent of students at Grady Municipal Schools, passionately objected to the proposed changes. Traveling over three hours to Santa Fe, Dixon emphasized the importance of providing students and teachers with breaks. Currently, on a four-day school week schedule, Dixon’s grandchildren have thrived academically. He argued that a previous experience with a five-day school in Clovis did not yield the same success, making him a staunch supporter of the existing system at Grady.

The sentiment against the proposed changes was widespread, with hundreds of individuals converging in the state’s capital to voice their opinions. The legislature had earlier passed a bill to increase instructional time and extend the school calendar. This bill allowed districts with four-day school weeks to make adjustments to their hours.

However, the Public Education Department (PED) is now contemplating a shift for all schools to a traditional five-day school week. Critics, including Dave Hicks, the President of the Socorro School Board, deemed this move an “absolute overreach,” expressing discontent with the disregard for local school board members and the legislative process that had addressed the issue less than a year ago. Hicks stressed that a one-size-fits-all approach is inadequate, advocating for support tailored to the unique needs of each district.

Cabinet Secretary Arsenio Romero of the Public Education Department defended the proposed changes, citing the need to align policies with House Bill 130, which requires all public schools to provide 1,140 hours of learning time per year, including teacher professional development time. However, critics, including teachers, lawmakers, and school officials, strongly opposed the move, considering it an encroachment on local control and contrary to the spirit of 2023’s H.B. 130.

The verbiage of the proposed rule directly contradicts state statute, with H.B. 130 reading, “Up to sixty instructional hours per school year for elementary grades and thirty instructional hours for middle and high school grades may be used for professional work hours, which may be embedded during the course of a normal school day.” 

The proposed rule, in conflict with the statute, asserts that “all public school calendars shall include at least 180 instructional days per school year, exclusive of teacher professional work hours.”

Ron Hendrix, the Socorro Superintendent, echoed these concerns, fearing a potential loss of half their teaching staff if the PED enforces the schedule change. Both Hendrix and Hicks urged the department to acknowledge and support what is working effectively in individual districts rather than imposing a uniform solution.

The Public Education Department is set to review the comments gathered on Monday and is expected to make a ruling on the proposed school calendar changes in January. The fate of the proposed modifications remains uncertain, pending further deliberation by education officials.


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