New Mexico teachers union opposes extending the school year - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico teachers union opposes extending the school year

(Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – A New Mexico teachers union is opposing legislation that would extend the school year to make up for learning lost during the coronavirus pandemic.

Children are facing unprecedented setbacks amid online instruction and court rulings are pressuring state leaders to improve student outcomes, which were some of the worst in the nation even before the virus hit.

“This is one way to help those students gain back what they’ve lost and to move ahead academically in the future,” said Sen. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat and retired teacher who sponsored the bill. “It’s money that we have. It’s two evidence-based programs that are already being used all over the state.”

Those programs offer state funding to extend elementary school calendars by 25 days and upper grades by 10 days. Teachers, who are normally unpaid during summer months, effectively get a 6% to 14% raise when they participate.

Union leaders and lawmakers such as Stewart agree that extended learning is good for students, citing several studies that have documented 20% improvements in academic performance.

But only a third of school districts participated in the programs in the 2019-20 school year. During the pandemic, participation fell even further among elementary school programs, leaving over $100 million allocated by the Legislature unused.

School officials say teachers often don’t want to work the extra days and cite staffing as the primary challenge to offering the extended learning.

Mandating the program would restrict teachers’ summer vacations too much, according to New Mexico leaders for the National Education Association, the union representing teachers from the largest number of districts in the state. The union is organizing members to lobby against the bill.

“Teachers need a break. Our districts are going to work until (mid-June). They would have two weeks off, and then we’d have to start K-Plus,” NEA Bernalillo President Jennifer Trujillo said, referring to the elementary-age extended learning program. “If teachers aren’t happy and supported, and have everything at their fingertips, they’re not going to be successful.”

Trujillo says she welcomed a portion of Stewart’s bill that allows districts to decide when to add the extra days, including in the spring or summer 2022.

Other union officials say the extended learning requirements could hurt teacher retention, especially among those who aren’t tied to New Mexico.

“For some of these communities that depend on teachers from other countries – like, we also have teachers from the Philippines, right, that are just dying to go back to their country to spend a summer,” NEA New Mexico spokesman Steve Sianez said.

Stewart said she is working some additional flexibility into the legislation after hearing from superintendents and teachers, but that the state will still need educators to participate. The senator said she understands how they feel.

“I think everyone is frustrated, and teachers are working 24/7,” she said. “They’re tired. And they’re frustrated. And it doesn’t help that we’ve kind of had a hiccup with teachers and the vaccine distribution.”

Teachers are prioritized for vaccines, and some received them in January, including the entire staff of a small private school in Santa Fe. But clinics for teacher vaccines at large public schools were canceled later in the month due to supply constraints and miscommunications with health officials.

Legislative research reports indicate that learning loss during the pandemic could range from five to 12 months, depending on students’ vulnerability – those without secure housing and rural children lacking solid internet access are some of the most at risk.

Anecdotally, teachers nationwide say that, even when students connect, they’re getting less instruction time as material is trimmed down during the pandemic.

Even before the virus, a New Mexico court ruled in 2018 that around 80% of children – including those who are low-income, learning English or Indigenous – receive education so deficient that it violates the state Constitution.

Increased learning time has been one of lawmakers’ main responses to that ruling. It’s possible the courts could take over education funding and policy if schools do not improve.

In December, teachers’ out-of-state vacations that might have required quarantine were a factor in canceling in-person learning.

Stewart wants teachers in classrooms more next year.

“We need all hands on deck. And this was a way to fund it,” the senator said of her bill. “Because we didn’t use these programs this year, we have the funding to do this in every school for every student.”

Home » Blogs » At the Roundhouse » New Mexico teachers union opposes extending the school year

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

Federal judge orders Shaheen Syed jailed pending trial
ABQnews Seeker
A judge ordered the son of ... A judge ordered the son of a man charged in the shootings of Muslim men in Albuquerque ...
School kicks off year with restorative practices
ABQnews Seeker
While the rest of Garfield STEM ... While the rest of Garfield STEM Magnet and Community School was busy settling back int ...
Trial begins in effort to remove Couy Griffin from ...
ABQnews Seeker
Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin admitted ... Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin admitted a couple of times Monday that he wasn't ready for trial. 'I'm not as prepared as I should ...
APD: Angry Burger King customer waves gun at employee
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are looking for an ... Albuquerque police are looking for an unhappy customer who they say waved a gun at a Burger King employee after he didn't receive his ...
Man charged after allegedly exchanging gunfire with Rio Rancho ...
ABQnews Seeker
The man who was wounded while ... The man who was wounded while allegedly exchanging gunfire with Rio Rancho police officers in a Walmart parking lot on Saturday morning has been ...
APD investigating woman's death as suspicious
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque homicide detectives are investigating after ... Albuquerque homicide detectives are investigating after a woman was found dead in her apartment on Columbia, just north of Kathryn SE, Monday morning. Lt. ...
TOP OF MIND: What do you think about allowing ...
ABQnews Seeker
Click here to tell us: ... Click here to tell us: What do you think about allowing hundreds of Bernalillo County employees to carry pepper spray on county property ...
NM United and APS hold back-to-school night
ABQnews Seeker
Families with students in Albuquerque Public ... Families with students in Albuquerque Public Schools can get discounted tickets for the Sept. 2 New Mexico United game against El Paso Locomotive FC ...
Las Cruces man charged for threatening to burn NMSU
ABQnews Seeker
John Oliver Hamilton, 54, of Las ... John Oliver Hamilton, 54, of Las Cruces, has been charged with threatening to burn a building by means of fire after Hamilton allegedly made ...