PED Adopts 180-Day Rule

Education secretary moves forward with rule despite objection from teachers

Despite overwhelming opposition from teachers, faculty and the National Education Association in New Mexico, the Public Education Department has decided to move forward with a rule proposed last winter that would require all public schools in the state to operate on a minimum of 180 instructional days, beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.

“In order to equalize instructional time across the state, we have chosen to adopt the 180-day calendar rule,” Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero said in a Thursday morning news release. “We must improve student outcomes across the state, our students deserve better, and that begins with quality instructional time in the classroom. We know that this will be a key to turning the tide on academic performance in the state.”

Many local educators still oppose PED’s rule for the way it impacts their work days.

“It’s going to add to a very demanding job already. I think we’re at a point right now with the kids and the teachers, it’s going to add to burnout,” Aaron Abeyta, a seventh grade teacher at Milagro Middle School, tells SFR. “We’ve already felt it with the instructional minutes that they’ve added to our day…I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years, and we used to get out at 3 [pm], now we get out at 4 [pm]. This is what happens when people are making decisions that affect teachers and students that don’t work with teachers and students—they make these rules that don’t make sense to teaching and learning.”

During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers adopted a law requiring schools to give all students a minimum of 1,140 instructional hours per school year. Romero proposed PED’s new 180-day rule because he said the increased hours rule resulted in “about one-third” of schools receiving less instructional days than before.

Grace Mayer, president of NEA-Santa Fe and an art teacher at Milagro, expressed frustration that Romero decided to adopt the rule despite widespread objections. The 2024 Legislature also chose not to hear education reform bills Mayer feels would better improve student learning, such as reduced classroom sizes.

“We have elected school boards, and we have local control. This is not local control,” Mayer tells SFR. “This is PED overreaching and imposing its will on every community in New Mexico, and I think that fundamentally, that’s wrong…and fundamentally undemocratic.”

The proposed rule technically allows (mostly rural) schools that operate on four-day school weeks to continue that schedule, but it would require much longer school years—45 weeks. San Jon Municipal Schools in Quay County, for example, would have to add eight extra weeks of school when compared to its 2023-2024 calendar year to be in compliance.

Additionally, the secretary will grant some districts and charter schools exemptions from the rule based on reading proficiency rates as well as growth in reading proficiency rates.

“We are moving forward because it is what’s best for students. 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,” Romero says in the press release. “We know this is a big change for some communities, we are here to support you through this adjustment. We are all in this together for the young people in our state.”

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez, tells SFR that in order to be in compliance with the rule in the next school year, the district will have to add six more days to the 2024-2025 calendar approved by the SFPS Board of Education on Feb. 22. Chavez clarified that while changes will be made, next school year’s start date will remain on Friday, Aug. 9.

“We knew there was always a chance PED would issue this rule, which is why we came up with the calendar that the board adopted in February, so we could be flexible enough to incorporate whatever mandates are not going to take effect in the 2024-2025 school year,” Chavez says.

In the meantime, Chavez says the school district’s goal in implementing the rule is to give students and educators as much support as possible.

“When you’re adding more instructional days, and more days to the contracts of our employees, they should be compensated for that additional time,” Chavez says. “We’re trying to be creative in our calendar—especially the bell schedule—to ensure we don’t overwork and overload our employees, and give them time to dive deep into professional development…we want to make sure we’re listening, we’re cognizant, it’s just not going to be something that is easily adopted.”

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