Author: KGFisher

Get Involved with Our 2024 Legislative Agenda!

The 2024 legislative session is underway, and we are working to enact more of the potentially transformative education reforms we proposed in our 2022 policy report, A Roadmap for Rethinking Public Education in New Mexico. Here are brief summaries of the bills we are currently working on, with links to our Action Center so you can easily contact your legislators and the governor about any of them:

  • Upgrade the training and transparency of local school boards. We are advocating for Senate Bill 137, which would upgrade the training and transparency requirements 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!
  • Reduce elementary school classes sizes. We are supporting House Bill 227 to phase in a cap of 20 students in grades K-6, one grade per year over six years. Smaller class sizes enhance the positive impacts of extended learning time by allowing teachers to spend more time with each student and provide more personalized instruction. They also reduce teacher stress and burnout, keeping more good teachers in the profession. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass 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 urging lawmakers to include a one-semester class in financial literacy in the high school graduation requirements. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor about it!
  • Ensure high-quality teacher preparation programs. We are advocating for House Bill 256, 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. House Bill 256 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 ensure that they are offering evidence-based curricula that reflects the current best practices in areas like math and reading instruction. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor to urge them to pass it!
  • Improve school principal pay and training. Principal quality is the second most most important factor after teacher quality in student success, because good principals are the key to recruiting and retaining good teachers. Unfortunately,  New Mexico is one of the ten worst states for principal retention, with principals remaining in their jobs for less than four years on average. Among the main reasons why principals leave their jobs are inadequate preparation and low salaries. House Bill 22 would ensure that incoming principals have access to residencies, where they have the opportunity to shadow an experienced principal for a year. It would also improve principal pay. Read more about this reform and email your legislators and the governor about it!
  • Fund the Strategic Water Reserve. The Strategic Water Reserve is an innovative water management tool that Think New Mexico proposed and won passage of in 2005. It allows the state to buy and lease water rights to 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 fully fund it!

Celebrating our 25th Anniversary!

On January 1, 2024, Think New Mexico marked 25 years since its founding.

We are proud of the track record of results that Think New Mexico has delivered for New Mexicans in our first quarter century, from repealing the food tax to ending predatory lending to making full-day kindergarten accessible to every child in the state. We have some exciting plans in the works to magnify our impact over the next quarter century, and we look forward to sharing more information about them throughout 2024.

Think New Mexico Advocates for Smaller Elementary School Classes

One of Think New Mexico’s priorities during the upcoming legislative session will be to win passage of legislation phasing in a cap of 20 students per class in grades 1-6. We would phase this class size cap in over six years, one grade per year, to allow ample time to plan for funding, space, and staff. Smaller classes improve student performance for at-risk students and also help keep good teachers in the profession longer. Yet in the 2022-23 school year, 27% of New Mexico’s elementary school classes exceeded limits and average targets set in current state law.

Read more about why this reform is so important in a recent guest editorial by our Education Reform Director Mandi Torrez and click here to contact your legislators and the governor about this reform.

Thanks for helping us meet the challenge!

Our deep thanks go out to the dozen extremely generous New Mexicans who put together a pool of challenge grants totaling $170,000, and to the 373 New Mexicans who helped us more than match that challenge!

Including both the challenge grants and your matching contributions, during Think New Mexico’s annual online fundraising campaign between October 2-16, 2023, you helped us raise $333,365, which is nearly 44% of Think New Mexico’s annual budget.

The main challenge of $135,000, which was offered by 11 challenge grantors, was more than matched dollar for dollar by $144,089 from 312 donors.

A separate challenge of $35,000 offered a 2:1 match for new donors, new Monthly Amigos, and returning donors who hadn’t given in the last five years (since 2018 or earlier). This challenge was matched by $19,276 from 44 first-time donors, eight donors who had not given since 2018, and nine new Monthly Amigos. With the 2:1 match, those donations leveraged every single dollar of the $35,000 challenge grant!

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 or held a physical fundraising event. 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 spend the rest of the year focused on our policy research and advocacy work.

Think New Mexico Moves to New Permanent Headquarters

As of June 1, 2023, Think New Mexico can be found in its new permanent headquarters in the historic Greer House at 505 Don Gaspar in Santa Fe, at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Don Gaspar, just down the block from our previous office and directly across the street from the state Capitol.

The Greer House was constructed in 1909 by Nathan Salmon (1866-1941), who emigrated to the United States from Syria at the age of 21. He traveled the Southwestern U.S. peddling goods from a wagon, and on one trip, he ended up stranded by a snowstorm in Santa Fe. He stayed and prospered, opening the Big Dry Goods store on San Francisco Street and ultimately developing a real estate business with his son-in-law, E. John Greer. Together they built the Lensic Theater.

Throughout its history, the Greer House served as a gathering place for New Mexico governors, legislators, and judges. (The home was even the setting for the 1942 wedding reception of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Conrad Hilton, the hotel magnate and former Republican legislator who originally hailed from Socorro.) In its next chapter as Think New Mexico’s headquarters, the tradition of policymakers and state leaders meeting in the Greer House will continue.

Think New Mexico’s purchase of the Greer House is fully funded, primarily by three sources. First, an anonymous donor, who was inspired by the results that Think New Mexico has achieved, contributed $1 million. Second, Think New Mexico raised $900,000 from the sale of a six-acre parcel of land in Taos that was gifted to the organization several years ago. Finally, the remaining funds will be generated by leasing the extra offices in the Greer House that Think New Mexico is not currently occupying.

Think New Mexico’s purchase of the Greer House came after an extensive search and consideration of 21 different properties in the South Capitol area. The Greer House met the three essential criteria Think New Mexico was seeking in a permanent headquarters. First, it has close proximity to the Roundhouse, which facilitates Think New Mexico’s regular meetings with policymakers. Second, the Greer family has taken extraordinary care of the property over the last century, particularly Nathan Salmon’s great-grandson Freddie Soldow, who has cared for it for the last 23 years, so that it is in move-in condition. Finally, the Greer House is large enough to allow Think New Mexico to grow our staff over time and magnify our impact for New Mexicans.

Think New Mexico Publishes Teacher Resource Guide

Think New Mexico has published a new resource guide to help teachers make the most of the extended learning time that was enacted during the 2023 legislative session.

Click here to access the resource guide.

House Bill 130, which was supported by Think New Mexico, raised 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 adding 27 extra days of learning for elementary school students and 10 extra days for middle and high school students.

Think New Mexico recommended increasing the minimum instructional time for students in our Roadmap for Rethinking Public Education in New Mexico, based on the research showing that expanding learning time is one of the most effective strategies for improving student proficiency, closing achievement gaps, and helping students recover from the loss of instructional time during the pandemic.

After legislation supported by Think New Mexico is enacted, we work to ensure the law’s successful implementation. Our research indicated that, in order to achieve the most benefit from the extra hours, teachers need access to resources and ideas for engaging students in rich learning experiences. Therefore, Think New Mexico produced this resource guide to assist teachers in making the most of the additional hours with students.

Think New Mexico Welcomes our 2023 Leadership Interns!

This summer, Think New Mexico is proud to be hosting five stellar Leadership Interns:

  • Elizabeth Farrington, who grew up in Albuquerque, served as an AVID tutor in New Mexico schools,  worked on multiple political campaigns in New Mexico, Colorado, and California, and is now a junior at the University of Southern California where she is majoring in Political Science;
  • Jules Hanisee who was born and raised in Albuquerque and is now a junior at Tulane University where she serves on the student government and writes about LGBTQ+ issues for the university newspaper;
  • Tanya Ruiz Parra who grew up in Santa Fe, is earning a B.A. in Political Science at the University of Denver, and has volunteered with voter mobilization efforts, interned with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, and served as a Teaching Fellow with the Breakthrough program, which helps students from underserved communities prepare for college;
  • Jesús Eduardo Sánchez who grew up in Rio Rancho, co-owns and manages a small business in pond and aquarium maintenance, and is now earning a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science at the University of New Mexico, where he previously served in the student government; and
  • Andrew Schumann, New Mexico’s 2023 Truman Scholar, who grew up in Rio Rancho and earned six associate degrees from Central New Mexico Community College before graduating from College and Career High School, and who is now pursuing an M.A. in History at UNM.

Read more about this year’s Leadership Interns.

Elizabeth Farrington Jules Hanisee Tanya Ruiz-Parra Jesus Eduardo Sanchez Andrew Schumann

Results Achieved During the 2023 Legislative Session

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.

Check out our 2023 legislative agenda!

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!

Mandi Torrez, 2020 Teacher of the Year, Joins Think New Mexico

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.

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