ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Public education was at the forefront of Monday’s legislative session on Feb. 27. Following the push for a longer school year; Monday’s discussion was a push to limit class sizes.
House Bill 413 puts a cap on how many kids can be in a classroom in each grade. While this bill had bipartisan support in the House Education Committee, lawmakers said the funding and the staffing just aren’t there for it yet.
Right now, there are class size limits, but they’re based on averages. This would put a cap on each class: 20 for kindergarten and first grade, 22 for second and third grade, and so on. Those caps would be lower in what are considered to be high-poverty schools. House Bill 413 also calls for an online portal to report class load violations.
“Instead of extending the doggone day forcing a ton of kids in the same classroom, we can cut those classroom sizes down and really give kids the attention that they deserve,” says Representative Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque), sponsor of this bill. Teachers and others came to the House Education Committee to back the proposal. “I’ve heard people argue that New Mexico class sizes aren’t as high as other states and that teachers should just stop complaining. Most other states don’t have our level of poverty,” one person in support said.
However, lawmakers decided it’s not doable this year. An analysis of this bill found New Mexico’s elementary schools alone would need 687 more teachers, at a cost of more than $40 million dollars; and since this bill requires more educational assistants – one for every elementary school class with more than 15 students – school districts would need to hire more than 2,000 of them as well.
Legislators liked the idea but recognized it would likely die later on in the Roundhouse due to lack of funding. They’ll try again once more studies and discussions have occurred.