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Local School Districts Clash With State Over 180 Days

On April 18 of this year the New Mexico Superintendents Association, along with 57 New Mexico school administrations, filed suit against the State of New Mexico’s Public Education Department (PED) in the 9th Judicial District Court. The suit challenges the PED’s Rule 6.10.5 NMAC on school instructional time requirements, calling it “unlawful.” The rule mandates a minimum of 180 instructional days starting in the 2024-25 academic year with an exception for districts which meet a particular threshold of performance metrics in the form of a 10 to 15 percent increase in test scores.

“This lawsuit is about giving local districts local control,” Questa Independent School District (QISD) Superintendent John Maldonado told the Questa del Rio News. “A lot of schools have already made their budgets for next year and this mandate hurts rural districts the most because a district like [Albuquerque Public Schools], who has several teachers for one subject, can cut their budget more easily than we can.”
Superintendent Maldonado explained how this mandate goes against what the Legislature voted on last year, referring to NM HB 130, which set a minimum of 1,140 instructional hours in an academic year while still allowing districts to organize those hours into either a 4-day or a 5-day school week. HB130 passed the NM House of Representatives unanimously and passed the NM Senate 34-6; it was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham on March 16.

The mandate was initiated in March of this year and Governor Lujan-Grisham’s communications team has stated publicly they “want to assure New Mexicans that their public education department remains dedicated to promoting a robust learning environment and fostering excellence in education throughout New Mexico,” despite the fact that the Governor signed a contradictory bill last year.

This lawsuit also comes on the heels of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, which alleged that the state was failing in its duty to provide K-12 students with an “equitable and college-ready” education.

NM District Judge Dustin Hunter has issued a temporary hold on the mandate from PED pending the litigation which allows school districts to continue with their own calendar. The QISD Board voted on a 150-day calendar last month in defiance of the PED’s mandate.

While the PED’s justification for their mandate is to increase instructional days for students, only 38 percent of NM public school students can read at grade level.

“Most of us know that standardized tests are inaccurate, inequitable, and often ineffective at gauging what students actually know,” the National Education Association stated last year.

Furthermore, the Economic Policy Institute came out against test scores as a sole performance indicator a decade ago.

The US News & World Report ranks New Mexico #50, dead last, in education compared to other states, and #49 overall. WalletHub ranks New Mexico as the worst American state to live in.

NM PED Rule 6.10.5 NMAC
NM HB 130
Yazzie-Martinez Lawsuit
Standardized Testing is Still Failing Students
Problems With The Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers
US News & World Report State Rankings
WalletHub State Rankings, Best Places to Live