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Ban on 180-day rule is ‘elephant in the room’, as Ed Chief addresses lawmakers

May 16 – Although a district judge has temporarily blocked the New Mexico Public Education Department’s new requirement that schools provide 180 days of instruction each year, the controversial rule remains a top priority for lawmakers.

As Public Instruction Secretary Arsenio Romero gave a presentation Thursday briefing the Legislative Education Study Committee on his department’s recent efforts and legislative priorities, lawmakers — Republican and Democratic — noted the judge’s decision this week in a civil case that challenged the rule contested.

“It’s a bit of an elephant in the room, the judge’s 180-day decision,” said Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque.

Fifth Judicial District Judge Dustin Hunter on Monday imposed a preliminary injunction on the rule, barring the Department of Public Instruction from implementing it until the conclusion of the lawsuit filed by the New Mexico School Superintendents Association and more than 50 school districts in the state – including Santa Fe public schools.

The order, which comes at the height of the period when public school districts and charter schools are preparing their budgets and calendars for next year, means “business as usual.” Romero confirmed that schools will be allowed to maintain calendars with fewer than 180 instructional days in 2023-2024.

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“We will move forward and adapt to the judge’s order. This is something we will continue to work on,” he said.

The rule has been hotly contested since its proposal in November 2023 and has been the target of much scrutiny by lawmakers. A handful of Republican lawmakers are even listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

During Monday’s court hearing, Hunter said he imposed the preliminary injunction largely because the 180-day rule was inconsistent with New Mexico’s legislative history and intent, specifically the 2023 legislation requiring 1,140 hours — not days — of education for public school students requirement. .

Garratt made that point during Thursday’s meeting.

“I am one of the sponsors of the 1,140 hours [requirement]and it had only been in effect for two months when suddenly a rule was put in place,” she said. I’m excited [that’s] failure to respect the intention of the legislature.”

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, took a harder approach to the issue, arguing that the 180-day rule was the kind of “complete overreach” of authority by the department that lawmakers should try to rein in.

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“We as legislators are going to have to be a little more careful because we have departments that have decided that they don’t really care what we think or what we do. And I’m sorry to say, but I believe your department is gone. a bit of a thug,” Brandt told Romero.

He continued, “You don’t really care what the legislature has given you the power to do; you just do what you want.”

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