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New Mexico education department proposing kids spend more time in school

By Laila FreemanNatalie Wadas,


NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico still ranks 50th in the nation in education. The secretary of education believes the solution is for students to spend a lot more time in the classroom.

Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said, if the state wants to see a difference, kids need to be spending more hours at school. For elementary students, he’s proposing an extra five weeks’ worth of class time.

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“I believe more time for kids engaged in learning with a good teacher is essential if we’re going to move the needle,” said Dr. Kurt Steinhaus with New Mexico Public Education Department (PED).

Steinhaus spoke to lawmakers Thursday. He wants an additional 150 hours of class time for elementary school students.

Sixth through twelfth-grade students would spend an extra 60 hours in school. That’s the equivalent of two weeks of class time.

The PED claimed it would be up to districts to decide if they want a longer school year, longer school days, or a combination of the two. Steinhaus is asking lawmakers for more than $260 million to cover the costs of that extra instructional time and extra pay at 875 public schools across the state.

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Legislature would have to sign off on all of this.

“The time that we are requesting is time with kids engaged in learning with a highly qualified teacher, it is not other kinds of time. We are not suggesting to you that if the school is doing professional development on Wednesday, all the kids stay home, that can’t be counted as school time,” said Steinhaus.

Steinhaus has two other strategies to improve education. They include a strong focus on attendance and filling 690 vacant teaching positions.

If lawmakers do pass a law increasing the minimum number of class-time hours, that could mean a longer school year for a lot of kids as soon as the fall.

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The PED said about 40% of New Mexico school districts already have extended learning schedules at elementary schools that reach the proposed threshold through an optional program.

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