Proposal: Longer school year for K-5 in New Mexico

Five more weeks for young learners

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A state senator wants to keep New Mexico’s young learners in the classroom a lot longer.

SB 563, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dona Ana, would increase the amount of time students in K-5 are required to spend in class and cut down on break time.

Right now, those kids are required to be in school for 180 days each school year, a minimum of 990 hours. Cervantes is proposing upping that to 205 days, five weeks longer. It would be the most any state requires.

“The goal is to make New Mexico the leader in the country with the number of school days,” Cervantes said. “The additional time … will make a huge difference in terms of [their] learning potential.”

Cervantes says it would also make up for the increased time that’s currently devoted to standardized testing. Stephanie Ly with the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico says the union supports the proposal.

Not everyone is on board. Tina Bruno with the Coalition for a Traditional School Year, a group that’s fought this idea in other states, says there would be negatives for kids.

“Everything that needs to be learned in a child’s life can’t be learned within the four walls of a schoolhouse,” Bruno said.

Bruno said the money used to extend the school year would be more effectively spent on things like one-on-one tutoring.

“I think we need to stop looking at more is better and look at quality instead of quantity,” Bruno said.

Parents KRQE News 13 spoke to Monday were mixed on the idea.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Angelo Abeyta. “More time in the classroom for kids to get their education on.”

“New Mexico could do better with education and we need to consider all the alternatives out there,” said Jacob English.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Tracy Carroll. “They’re pushed so hard now with all the testing that I think a break does them well.”

The extended school year wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year at the earliest and wouldn’t affect students in 6th to 12th grade.

Cervantes estimates the proposal would cost $135 million more a year. Under his bill, the change wouldn’t kick in unless voters signed off on a separate constitutional amendment that would pay for the change. That amendment, SJR 12, would tap the land grant permanent fund for that needed cash.

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