[1/31] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Friends & Colleagues -

Action in the Roundhouse is heating up as we approach the halfway mark of this 2018 legislature. Today is the last day for introduction of new bills so things will come into sharper focus soon. There are a couple of education bills that have drawn both my excitement and ire. More on those below. And this coming Saturday, the Education Committees of both chambers come together for a joint hearing for New Mexico Educators. Head on over to NMKidsCAN for more information, including a community breakfast ahead of the formal proceedings. As always, thanks for reading. Here's this week's roundup:

[LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico True Focuses on Teacher Leaders. Andrea Thomas of Mesa Elementary in Shiprock, NM features in this touching video from the #NMTrue campaign. Andrea shares her story of coming back to New Mexico and taking on leadership as a teacher on the Navajo Nation. Andrea says, "Our future generations, they are the people that are going to save us. They are going to be the people that are going to change the world. It is our job to give them these opportunities and take that leadership on." Empowering our teachers is a winning strategy to improving education statewide so it's great to see these efforts take root at home.

[LOCAL: NEWS] Bill Aimed at Increasing Dollars Spent On Classrooms Advances to House Ed. The "School Data Collection & Class Goals" bill, championed by Think New Mexico, heads to the House Education and Appropriations & Finance committees. This bill sets minimums, based on student population, for classroom expenditures by districts and state charter school. E.g. an LEA with between two thousand and seven thousand five hundred students must spend at least eighty-three percent of their budget on classrooms. APS would need to spend at least eighty-eight percent of its $1.3 billion budget on classrooms. Districts and state charters don't like being told what to do, so expect strong pushback from a sizable contingent of our 89 districts.

[LOCAL: NEWS] Devastating Bill Goes Largely Unnoticed in Senate. A bill that places charter schools in its crosshairs, SB147 the so-called "School Size Adjustment Bill" sponsored by Sen. Gay Kernan (R) from Hobbs, seeks to cut funding for charter schools located within a mile of any school serving the same grades . LESC's analysis of the bill portends dire news. Here are some of the schools projected to be affected and by how much:

For all our talk of the need to support successful and diverse local schools, this bill does precisely the opposite. And, despite this being the inverse of what public education in NM needs, SB147 passed through Senate Ed by a vote of 6-2. I'll be watching this closely and so should you.

[LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Adopts New Art Standards. Marking the first change in over a decade, NMPED announced new state art standards informed by the National Core Art Standards, which were "developed by a coalition of more than 60 arts educators from across the country." According to U.S. News & World Report, at least 15 states have adopted these guidelines since first published in 2014, with 19 more states currently revising theirs.

[NATIONAL: NEWS] New Mexico Drops in Rankings for Our Charter School Laws. National nonprofit, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, has moved NM from 22nd to 25th in their assessment of our charter school laws. This is a list New Mexico should aim to be near the top of every year. Echoing sentiments I've heard from several local charter school principals, NAPCS recommends we (1) increase operational autonomy, (2) allow multi-school charter contracts and/or multi-charter contract boards, (3) ensure transparency regarding educational service providers, and (4) strengthen accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

For the third consecutive year, Indiana comes in at number one because "Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability. Indiana has also made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools, although some work remains to be done."

[NATIONAL: PODCAST] Charter Schools Opponents Have Tried to Starve Them of Money For Decades. Charter schools have long fought to get their fair share of per pupil funding. In this fascinating interview, Parker Baxter, scholar in residence at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, discusses how Colorado and Florida have passed breakthrough laws mandating that charters receive equitable access to local funds. This is a must listen.