During the 2023 legislative session, Think New Mexico made progress on several of our priorities, including:
- Optimizing Time for Teaching and Learning: House Bill 130 was enacted to increase the minimum number of instructional hours from 990 for elementary school students and 1,080 for middle and high school students to 1,140 instructional hours for all students. This is the equivalent of 27 extra days of learning for elementary school students and 10 extra days for middle and high school students, and it is an important step toward ensuring that New Mexico’s students have the time they need to make up for the learning loss they experienced during the pandemic. Read more about this reform.
- Securing funding for teacher residencies: The 2023-2024 budget included $15 million for teacher residencies, paid year-long apprenticeships in which a new teacher teaches alongside an experienced one. Teacher residencies have been shown to enhance the skills of new teachers and nearly double the likelihood that they remain in the profession. Read more about this reform.
- Increasing principal pay and training: The 2023-2024 budget also contained nearly $8 million to increase salaries for principals and assistant principals, who have historically been significantly underpaid relative to their responsibility and impact on students. A separate bill, House Bill 199, raised the mandatory minimum salaries for principals, with larger increases for principals leading high-poverty schools. Read more about this reform.
- Funding the Strategic Water Reserve: The 2023-2024 budget and supplemental appropriations bill designated $7,650,000 for the Strategic Water Reserve, the water management tool that Think New Mexico successfully championed nearly two decades ago to keep our rives running to prevent conflicts over endangered species and interstate river compacts. Read more about this reform.
The Rio Grande Sun published a summary of the status of Think New Mexico’s policy reform efforts at the end of the 2023 legislative session.
Here are brief summaries of the bills we are working on during the 2023 legislative session, with links to our Action Center so you can easily contact your legislators and the governor about any of them:
- Optimize time for teaching and learning. House Bill 130 and House Bill 194 would increase the minimum number of instructional hours from 990 for elementary school and 1,080 for middle and high school to 1,140 for all students. HB 194 is the better option because it includes 80 hours of professional development time for teachers on top of the 1,140 hours. (HB 130 allows for up to 60 hours of the 1,140 to be used for teacher professional development and related activities.) Increasing learning time is supported by extensive research that shows that it is is one of the highest impact reforms we can implement to improve student achievement. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to express your support!
- Increase the training, transparency, and accountability of local school boards. We are advocating for House Bill 325, which would increase the training, transparency, and accountability of local school boards. A growing body of research has found that the decisions and actions of local school boards can positively impact the learning environment when school boards are focused on elevating student achievement. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass it!
- Maximize the amount of the state’s education budget that is spent in the classroom, rather than on school district central administration. We are advocating for Senate Bill 438 to help ensure that the big investments that the governor and legislature are making in our schools will actually reach students and teachers in the classroom. Our proposed legislation would prevent school districts larger than 2,000 students from adopting budgets that increase the growth of spending in school district central administrative offices faster than the growth of spending at the school site (on teachers, instructional aides, burses, coaches, principals, and school supplies). Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass it!
- Ensure high-quality teacher preparation programs. We are advocating for House Bill 460, which would set high standards for the state’s public colleges of education. The number of people completing traditional teacher training programs at New Mexico’s colleges of education has fallen by 75% over the past decade, and graduates report that the programs too often emphasize abstract theory over the practical, skills-based learning that is most valuable to future teachers, as well as that not all faculty have strong backgrounds as classroom teachers themselves. This bill would convert the final year of a four-year program into a teacher residency, a paid year-long experience in a classroom teaching alongside a master teacher. It would also upgrade faculty qualifications, curricula, and alignment of the different programs. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass it!
- Ensure small classes sizes. We are supporting House Bill 413, which lowers the caps on class size and creates tiers in which schools with higher populations of at-risk students have lower maximum class sizes. It also restricts the use of waivers to exceed those class sizes. Smaller class sizes allow teachers to provide more personalized instruction to every student, and also reduce teacher stress and burnout. The positive impacts of smaller classes are particularly important for the at-risk students who need the most support from the school system. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass it!
- Oppose efforts to weaken high school graduation requirements. We are urging legislators to strengthen House Bill 126, which proposes to overhaul high school graduation requirements. The good news is that the bill was amended in the House to 1) explicitly incorporate personal financial literacy into the government and economics course that is required for all high school students, and 2) require all high schools to offer standalone courses in financial literacy, world languages, career technical education, and other subjects, ensuring that students will not lose access to these important classes. We are still urging the legislature to strengthen the bill even further by keeping the number of required credits at 24, rather than reducing it to 22, and by ensuring that all students complete at least one class in a language other than English and in career technical education (e.g., training in careers like health care, film, teaching, and STEM fields). Read more about this issue and email your legislators and the governor about it!
- Make personal finance a high school graduation requirement. Today, only 11% of students complete this course, but every student needs to learn essential skills like how to make a budget, open a bank account, save and invest for their futures, and avoid high-cost debt. We are supporting legislation sponsored that would elevate personal finance from an elective to a graduation requirement, including House Bill 279. Read more about this reform.
- Fund the Strategic Water Reserve. Senate Bill 167 is bipartisan legislation that proposes to appropriate $25 million to the Strategic Water Reserve, an innovative water management tool that can help keep our rivers flowing to meet the needs of endangered species and the state’s water delivery obligations under interstate compacts. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to ask them to support it!
We are delighted to welcome Mandi Torrez at Think New Mexico’s new Education Reform Director!
Mandi is New Mexico’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. She has a decade of experience teaching third and fourth grade in the Bernalillo Public Schools, and she was also recognized as that district’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. Mandi holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Integrated Elementary and Special Education. Before becoming a teacher, she worked at the Farmington Daily Times as the News Editor and as Copy Editor.
Prior to joining Think New Mexico, Mandi served as Teacher Liaison at the Public Education Department, and she has experience advocating at the state legislature as a New Mexico Senior Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, a policy and leadership training network for teachers.
We are excited that Mandi will be leading Think New Mexico’s major new effort to rethink New Mexico’s public schools and lift up student performance and outcomes, particularly for the at-risk children who make up nearly three out of four students in our schools. Read a recent Albuquerque Journal editorial about our proposed reforms.
Think New Mexico has just released a new report laying out a sweeping ten point plan with 30 separate legislative recommendations to improve the performance of New Mexico’s struggling public education system, which was ranked last in the nation for quality by five separate evaluations by Education Week, Forbes, Kids Count, WalletHub, and U.S. News and World Report.
This report, several years in the making, differs from Think New Mexico’s past policy initiatives, which have generally focused on a single core reform, like repealing the food tax or ending predatory lending.
The reason for this different approach is that the solutions needed to improve our public schools are interlinked. For example, New Mexico needs better prepared principals in order to recruit and retain good teachers, and highly effective teachers are essential in order for students to benefit from extra time for focused learning. While there are many good ideas for improving our schools, we searched for and highlighted those ideas that the evidence demonstrates can move the needle for student achievement—particularly for at-risk students—based on experience in New Mexico and elsewhere.
You can read the report and find out more details about our recommendations on the Education Reform section of this website.
If you like what you read and you’d like to be part of this effort to revitalize public schools in New Mexico, please contact your legislators and the governor and urge them to enact these reforms during the upcoming 2023 legislative session!
Our deep thanks go out to the ten extremely generous New Mexicans who put together a pool of challenge grants totaling $165,000 and to the 404 New Mexicans who helped us more than match that challenge!
Including both the challenge grants and your matching contributions, during the online fundraising campaign between October 17-28, 2022 you helped us raise $329,986, which is more than 45% of Think New Mexico’s annual budget. We are especially pleased to welcome our 65 first-time supporters.
Since Think New Mexico was founded in 1999, we have always worked hard to keep our fundraising expenses to an absolute minimum. That’s why we have never employed a professional fundraiser. This strategy has succeeded thanks to all of you who give so generously during our two-week fund drive every year and make it possible for Think New Mexico’s small staff to focus on our policy research and advocacy work.
This summer, our exceptional summer Leadership Interns include Malina Brannen, who grew up in Santa Fe and is now a senior majoring in Government and minoring in Spanish; Alyssa-Noelle Capuano, who graduated from La Cueva high school in Albuquerque and is now a rising senior at the University of New Mexico, majoring in Political Science, working on her MBA, and minoring in French; Salomon Moises Cordova, who was born in Cedar Crest and raised throughout central New Mexico, and just graduated from St. John’s in Santa Fe; and Abigail Goldstein, who graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy at the University of New Mexico.
Read more about this year’s Leadership Interns.
The Public Education Department recently unveiled a proposed redesign of New Mexico’s high school curriculum. That plan rejects the ideas of including personal finance and civics as high school graduation requirements and proposes to shift required courses in government, economics and New Mexico history to optional electives. We oppose this proposal because the research shows that relevant courses like civics and financial literacy keep students engaged and on track to graduate, and also that students will rise to meet higher expectations – it does them a disservice to water down graduation requirements.
Read our Education Reform Director’s guest editorial about this proposal and join us in urging your legislators and the governor to keep New Mexico’s graduation requirements rigorous and relevant for students!
During the 2022 legislative session, Think New Mexico successfully championed the enactment of two landmark reforms that:
- Ended predatory lending! House Bill 132 passed the House 51-18 and the Senate 19-8. This bill would reduce the maximum annual interest rate on small loans from 175%, one of the highest rates allowed anywhere in the nation, to 36%, the national average. When the governor signs it, this new law will put an end to four decades of predatory lending and will save hardworking New Mexicans approximately $175 million in interest payments every year. Read more about this reform.
- Repealed the tax on Social Security income for all middle and lower income seniors! The legislature passed House Bill 163, which exempts Social Security from taxation for all middle and lower income seniors – with incomes under $100,000 as individuals or $150,000 as couples. When this reform is signed, it will save middle and low-income seniors $84 million this tax year, rising to $99.5 million by 2025. Approximately 86% of New Mexico seniors will qualify for the exemption, and the average senior will save around $710 a year. Read more about this reform.
In October 2021, the New Mexico Public Education Department released an update to its K-12 Social Studies standards, which detail the concepts that students should learn in classes like history and economics.
Because that initial draft did not add any financial literacy benchmarks, Think New Mexico wrote our own, based on the national best practices and the standards in place in other states like Colorado, and we urged the Public Education Department to include them.
That’s where you came in: New Mexicans like you submitted 263 public comments in support of our recommendation, including powerful personal testimony from students, parents, teachers, and graduates of New Mexico’s public schools. The Department took notice of this strong public response, and your impact is reflected in the revised standards they just released.
With this change, New Mexico will no longer be one of only five states that fails to include financial literacy in its education standards. The new standards will ensure students learn key skills and concepts like how to budget, open a bank account, make smart credit choices, and apply for financial aid to pay for college.
Our deep thanks go out to the eight extremely generous New Mexicans who put together a pool of challenge grants totaling $135,000 and to the 338 New Mexicans who helped us more than match that challenge!
Including both the challenge grants and your matching contributions, during the online fundraising campaign between October 18-29, 2021 you helped us raise $276,530, which is more than 40% of Think New Mexico’s annual budget. We are especially pleased to welcome our 47 new supporters.
Since Think New Mexico was founded in 1999, we have always worked hard to keep our fundraising expenses to an absolute minimum. That’s why we have never employed a professional fundraiser. This strategy has succeeded thanks to all of you who give so generously every year and make it possible for Think New Mexico’s small staff to focus on our policy research and advocacy work.