New Mexico lawmaker wants to extend school year

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – One lawmaker’s idea might not sit well with New Mexico kids, but he says it’s all to better their education. Sen. Joseph Cervantes wants to extend the school year.

The idea is a constitutional amendment, sponsored by Sen. Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, and would extend the school year by 20 days.

There’s a few reasons why he’s sponsoring the constitutional amendment, which could go to voters to ultimately decide if they agree with his idea or not.

He says the current three month-long summer break is too long, which hurts kids.

“Part of the problem we’re having right now is the demand that’s being put on students and teachers for additional testing, so the goal here is to allow additional school days to compensate for the testing,” Sen. Cervantes said.

If passed with a simple majority in both the House and Senate, the bill would dip into the permanent education fund, which currently stands at an estimated $16 billion. It would skim 1 percent of that money to fund the extended school year idea.

Sen. Cervantes says the permanent education fund exists for this very reason, to use it to better education. But as we’ve seen in years past, it’s a tough sell to Republicans.

“One of the best policy decisions we’ve made as a state is create a permanent fund and that’s from revenues generated by the oil and gas industry which isn’t a permanent revenue source,” House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R- Albuquerque, said.

“Eventually, those revenues are going to dry up, so, by depleting the corpus…by depleting the principle, you know, we’re going to create a situation potentially where we don’t have the money to pay for things like New Mexico School for the Deaf and New Mexico School for the Visually Impaired. So, it’s a bad policy decision.”

This extended school year amendment isn’t the only Democrat-backed bill that would dip into the permanent education fund.

Several other proposed constitutional amendments look to dip into the fund for early childhood education.

As he has earlier in the session, Rep. Gentry criticized and accused the Democrats of using these constitutional amendments to go around Gov. Martinez’s veto pen.

Rep. Gentry fears if a simple majority sends these constitutional amendments to the voters, who in turn say ‘yes’ at the polls in November, it would difficult to go back and change the constitution later on.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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