• June 18th, 2024
  • Tuesday, 03:31:39 PM

NM Superintendents Sue State Over New School Calendar Rule


A lawsuit seeks court injunction to block a Public Education Department rule requiring 180 instructional days per school year. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

 

By Ryan Lowery

Posted May 2, 2024

 

A group of local school district superintendents recently filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department and Secretary Arsenio Romero over a new rule that requires public and charter schools to have at least 180 instructional days each school year.

 

The lawsuit, filed April 18 by The New Mexico School Superintendents Association and dozens of superintendents from New Mexico school districts, seeks a court injunction to block the state public education department from implementing what the lawsuit called an “unlawful” rule that “directly conflicts” with existing statutes.

 

The group of superintendents filed the suit in the 9th Judicial District Court in Curry County where the districts of four of the superintendents are located.

 

The four are: Clovis Municipal School District, Grady Municipal Schools, Melrose Municipal Schools and Texico Municipal Schools. Some of the state’s largest districts — such as Santa Fe Public Schools, Alamogordo Public Schools and Farmington Municipal Schools — also signed onto the suit against the state education department.

 

The rule at the center of the lawsuit was introduced in House Bill 130, which legislators passed during the 2023 legislative session and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law in March that year.

 

The legislation came about after the landmark education lawsuit Yazzie-Martínez found the state had failed to provide quality education to students. Part of the judgment from the decision recommended an extended school calendar as a way to help students get a better education.

 

Extending school calendars drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers concerned about smaller, rural schools where many districts currently operate on a four-day a week calendar. Under the new rule, those districts would have to shift to five-day school weeks to meet the new requirement. Critics of the requirement said adding an extra day each week would add additional costs for meals, utilities and gas.

 

The new rule also faced vociferous opposition long before it became law. Concerns voiced by local teachers and parents included fears that it would create more stress and extra work for teachers, could cause some educators to leave the profession and that it would be costly to implement, which could draw money away from teacher salaries and retention bonuses.

 

Many of these concerns were addressed in the lawsuit filed last week, which stated that school districts would “incur millions of additional dollars in operational and pupil transportation costs which they cannot sustain.” It also asserted this would cause districts to “lose teachers, students, and staff.”

 

The suit further alleges that the state public education department implemented the new rule before its effective date by forcing school districts to submit operating budgets and school calendars that comply with the 180-day requirement by April 15, 2024. They said in the lawsuit that this new deadline is months before July 1, 2024, the effective date spelled out in the legislation that created the new rule.

 

State education department leaders said in a March 7 news release that it was moving ahead with the new rule based on “feedback received during the public comment period that best supports students, families, educators, and communities.”

 

“We are moving forward because it is what’s best for students,” Secretary Arsenio Romero said in the news release. “We’ve listened to you and considered your feedback and after extensive deliberation and study, we have determined that this is the best path forward to support student achievement.”

 

In a statement to Source New Mexico on April 24, Janelle Taylor García, a New Mexico Public Education Department spokesperson, said that it does not comment on pending litigation but added that the department “remains dedicated to promoting a robust learning environment and fostering excellence in education” throughout the state.

 

 

Ryan Lowery is an award-winning independent journalist based in Albuquerque. This article is republished from Source New Mexico under a Creative Commons license.