Constitutional amendment would pay for extended school year

Wants to use land grant permanent fund

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A state senator is renewing efforts to extend the school year for all New Mexico students through a constitutional amendment.

SJR 17, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, calls for tapping into the state’s land grant permanent fund to pay to have students in class for longer days or more days.

“We have an antiquated system that’s based on days when kids had to go home to the farm in the summertime to help with the crops,” Cervantes said. “We need to move into the modern century.”

Cervantes points to studies of the state’s K-3 Plus program, which keeps young students in class for 25 additional days. Those studies show that extra time has helped students improve their reading, writing and math skills.

“We know that this works,” Cervantes said.

But the proposal could struggle because it seeks to pay for the increased class time, an estimated cost of about $196 million for 25 more class days according to a fiscal impact report from last session, by tapping into the state’s nearly $15 billion land grant permanent fund. That has proven unpopular with Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats.

“That is really a rainy day fund, and I mean it’s got to be pouring, snowing and the earth shaking before I think we can really touch that,” said Sen. William Burt, R-Alamogordo. “If we don’t we’ll nitpick it to death and when we really need it, it won’t be there for us.”

SJR 17 has yet to have its first committee hearing. Cervantes backed efforts to extend the school year last session but his proposal stalled in committee.

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