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SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Monday directing the Public Education Department to reduce the administrative burden on teachers and school administrators before the start of the next school year.
The order doesn’t identify any particular paperwork for elimination.
But supporters say they hope to examine the frequency and necessity of training sessions that teachers must participate in and the amount of documentation required for teachers applying to advance to a higher teaching license.
The order calls for the Public Education Department to work with teachers and administrators to identify and lift burdensome requirements before the beginning of the fall semester.
It comes as New Mexico also ramps up teacher pay, boosting the starting annual salary from $40,000 to $50,000, among other changes intended to recruit and retain teachers.
The state faced such a dire shortage earlier this year that Lujan Grisham asked members of the National Guard for volunteers to serve as substitute teachers.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat up for reelection this year, said she encountered plenty of paperwork herself when she volunteered as a substitute teacher this year. The work included reporting how much of the curriculum she got through and how the students responded – record-keeping that added an hour to 90 minutes to the day, she said.
“Being in the classroom is tough,” Lujan Grisham said.
Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, a former teacher and superintendent, said the goal of the order is to reduce duplicative reporting, not interfere with the collection of meaningful data tracking student progress.
It could mean, he said, changing the application requirements for teachers advancing through the licensing system. Teachers now spend many hours of work on professional dossiers as part of their applications – a system that might be replaced with something less burdensome, he said.
Steinhaus said he also wants to examine whether every training session teachers must now take is actually necessary.
“There’s an old saying with educators that you might not have heard,” he said. “‘If you’re in education, you’re really good at addition and very bad at subtraction.’ And what that means is we are good at piling more and more things on” to teachers’ workday.
Whitney Holland, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union, said she hopes the order will result in scrutiny over the frequency of training sessions – whether, for example, a teacher must go through the same training every August.
Holland taught third graders in Los Alamos for almost 10 years.
Fewer administrative tasks, supporters said, could give teachers more time to plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues.
“As a classroom teacher,” Holland said, “one of the things I struggled with the most was never having enough time.”
The order signed by Lujan Grisham calls for a 25% reduction in the administrative burden, a target the Public Education Department acknowledges it hasn’t determined how to measure yet.
Steinhaus said the state is hiring a contractor to develop how to measure the reduction.
New Mexico has struggled for years with poor educational outcomes. In 2019, for example, just 30% of third graders were proficient in reading.
The state is also facing a class-action lawsuit that resulted in a 2018 court decision declaring that New Mexico had violated the rights of some students by failing to provide a sufficient education.
The governor signed the executive order at Aspen Community School in Santa Fe as students watched.