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News from 2022-2023

Posted: March 21, 2023

Lawmakers approve more instructional time, raises for public school employees during session

Legislation requires governor’s signature before becoming law

A budget that authorizes average 6% pay raises for educators and state workers. More classroom time for students. Boosting the minimum wage of teaching assistants from $12,000 to $25,000 a year.

Those are among the measures that made it through this year’s 60-day legislative session before lawmakers adjourned at noon on Saturday. Bills making it through the Legislature by the deadline still need to be signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in order to become law.

The governor has already taken action on some legislation, including signing a bill on Thursday afternoon that requires additional classroom time for students, along with embedded professional development time for teachers.

That legislation, House Bill 130, requires at least 1,140 hours of class time per school year, an increase from the current minimums of 990 hours for elementary schools and 1,080 hours for secondary schools.

State lawmakers also succeeded in their push to boost the pay of licensed instructional assistants at public schools around New Mexico. House Bill127, which has already been signed by the governor, sets a minimum salary for educational assistants at $25,000. The current minimum salary is $12,000.

The governor has also signed House Bill 9, legislation that makes it a crime when someone fails to store firearms out of the reach of children.

Among the biggest pieces of legislation that lawmakers tackle in any regular session is the budget. This year they approved a $9.6 billion budget. Educators and state workers would see average 6% raises during the upcoming fiscal year if the governor signs off on the spending plan without changes.

The spending plan also earmarks about $250 million to cover the costs of extended instructional hours at public schools around the state.

Among the other education-related bills that made it through the Legislature:

  • Senate Bill 4 requires public schools to provide healthy breakfasts and lunches to students at no charge.
  • House Bill 134 requires schools to provide free tampons and other feminine hygiene products in school bathrooms. 
  • House Bill 126 would decrease the number of high school graduation credits required under state statute beginning with students entering the ninth grade during the 2024-2025 school year. Specifically, it reduces the number of credits required from 24 to 22 by eliminating the Algebra II requirement and the requirement that students take a dual credit, advanced placement, honors, or distance education course. Even if this bill is signed by the governor, it would be up to each school board to decide whether to lower its graduation requirements.
  • House Bill 199 modifies the formula used to fund public schools by providing more money for at-risk students and fine arts education programs, among other things.
  • Senate Bill 131 makes several changes to the Public School Capital Outlay Act, which effectively allows APS to tap into this money for building projects.
  • House Bill 4 makes several changes to election laws, including making Election Day a school holiday for students and staff at public schools statewide. The holiday requirement goes into effect in 2024.

Gov. Lujan Grisham has until April 7 to take action on legislation approved in the final days of the session.

In other action, the Senate voted on March 15 to confirm former Los Lunas Schools superintendent Arsenio Romero as the new state education secretary. Senators voted 34-0 in favor of confirming Romero, who said his top priorities include improving reading proficiency, serving the state’s most underrepresented students, and boosting graduation rates.  

Tags: Core Schools