ECECD Home Visiting Manager and Monitor Josephine Salas at an ECECD baby shower at Explora on May 26, 2023.

ECECD hosts baby showers to let parents know about resources

Friday afternoon, a line of people formed outside a room in the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum in Albuquerque. 

The line was made up of expectant parents, some with children, who came to a baby shower put on by the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department to bring attention to the home visiting program. Participants who had signed up for the baby shower received a diaper bag with diapers, clothes, grooming kits and more. The baby shower was one of four being done across the state this spring and summer. “(Home visiting) is open for any family and it’s available prenatal to age five,” ECECD Division Director for Family Support and Early Intervention Mayra Gutierrez said. “I want to share that this program is open to anybody.

Sen. Martin Heinrich speaks to Rio Rancho Elementary students during an assembly celebrating the school being listed as one of ESPN’s Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools for 2022.

Heinrich touts universal school meals and outdoor learning at school visits

On Friday, Rio Rancho Elementary faculty and students celebrated the school’s recent listing as one of ESPN’s Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools for 2022. It was the only elementary school on the list. Rio Rancho Elementary was recognized for its inclusivity measures pertaining to school sports that includes all learners including those with intellectual disabilities. One of the people at Rio Rancho Elementary to celebrate the day was Sen. Martin Heinrich. “I’m here today because what you’re doing is super cool,” Heinrich told a group of Rio Rancho Elementary students.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales visits with kindergarteners at the Boys and Girls Club of Otero County in Alamogordo during a visit on April 25, 2023.

‘The whole world is a classroom’: Morales visits Alamogordo Boys and Girls Club

Fresh from a day of school, the children came into the club in groups, all standing in a line waiting to be checked in at the Boys and Girls Club of Otero County in Alamogordo. Today may have started out normally for the children participating in the afterschool programs at the Boys and Girls Club but today was different. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, a former teacher, visited the Club and played with the children including handing out snacks during snack time. The visit was to see after school programs in action after $20 million was added to the state’s budget to help after school programs like Boys and Girls Club. “We’re very thankful for the after school funding,” Boys and Girls Club of Otero County CEO Pamela Cisneros said.

Biden proposes new rule for transgender student athletes in response to state bans

The Biden Administration has proposed a new rule to Title IX that impacts transgender students playing school sports. The U.S. Department of Education proposed a new rule to Title IX to provide guidance for schools navigating decisions about transgender youth playing school sports. Title IX requires that any public educational institution that receives federal funding provide educational opportunity, including in athletics, that is free of discrimination based on gender. Some have said this is the first time an administration has taken a position on this issue, which has become a political wedge issue. In New Mexico, legislators in a committee heard an anti-transgender bill in 2021, that would have banned transgender athletes from playing on school teams consistent with their gender identity.

Bilingual education advocates push for an increased focus, opportunities

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Students from José Eduardo Cervantes’ third-grade class at Bernalillo Elementary School are in agreement: It’s good to be bilingual. “You can speak two languages, and you can translate to other people that don’t know a language,” said Luis Martinez. “You can be a bilingual teacher and help other kids learn other languages,” added Jared Marquez Gonzalez. Not only is it helpful to speak more than one language, the third-graders said, New Mexico students should have access to bilingual education. 

“Before we had bilingual education, if you spoke Spanish, you’d get punished. We should have the right to be bilingual,” said Rubi Beltrán Ruiz.

Governor names new Public Education Department head

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham nominated Los Lunas Superintendent Dr. Arsenio Romero to be the new Public Education Department Secretary on Tuesday. “Dr. Romero has been a key education policy partner since the beginning of my administration,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release. “With his broad range of experience as a teacher, a principal, and superintendent in districts across the state, I have full confidence that he will continue to build innovation and access for New Mexico students. Dr. Romero has the vision and expertise to implement the changes our public education system needs.”  

Romero hails from Belen and became an educator after having been inspired by his mother who taught first grade, the news release states. “I am incredibly honored to be entrusted by Gov. Lujan Grisham and the people of our state with leading the New Mexico Public Education Department,” Romero said in the news release.

Sen. Craig Brandt talks about Glory's Law during a press conference. Other speakers included, from left to right, Glory's mother Christy Sellers, UNM Head Football Coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

School supplies tax rebate bill discussed

A bill that would help offset the costs teachers pay to equip their students was discussed in its first committee Tuesday. SB 28, which will provide a tax deduction for teachers who buy school supplies for their classrooms was held pending further discussion in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon. Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, sponsored the bill. 

The bill provides teachers up to $500 in tax deductions for school supply purchases in Fiscal Year 2024 and it doubles to $1,000 for Fiscal Year 2025 and onward. The standard school supplies— such as paper, pencils and protractors— are covered but the higher cost items such as electronics are not covered for the deduction. Funding for the tax deduction would come from the general fund and would cost $320,000 in FY 24 and $640,000 for FY25 onward.

Proposed legislation would provide tax deduction for teachers

School supply drives are a regular sight in the weeks leading up to school starting every August. It is not just students’ parents who buy pencils, paper and protractors; teachers, many times, spend hundreds of dollars to keep their classrooms stocked for the school year. One proposed bill in this year’s legislative session seeks to help curb that expense. State Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, pre-filed a bill that would help offset the expense by allowing teachers who buy school supplies to get a tax deduction of up to $500 for the purchase if the bill is approved during the 2023 legislative session. Marsella Duarte, an Albuquerque kindergarten teacher, supports the bill and said she has spent more than $500 on school supplies for her class.

Governor cites universal free school meals as legislative priority

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke at the 5th annual Bloomberg American Health Summit in Philadelphia Tuesday where she said “in New Mexico, starting right now, no one pays for a meal in school.”

The statement was said to a roomful of applause, however it is not accurate. “Free school lunches for all New Mexico K-12 students will be part of the governor’s agenda that she will pursue in the upcoming legislative session,” spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said. “For the past two school years, federal funding waivers enabled all students to eat for free – the governor’s initiative will ensure that every New Mexico student has access to free and healthy, high quality school meals by covering the price of breakfast and lunch for tens of thousands of students that currently do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals.”

As the details have not been made public, Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta said that APS “supports programs intended to cover meal costs for all students.”

APS currently has about 45,000 students of about 89,000 students who qualify for free or reduced meals, Armenta said. Statewide, about 75 percent of students qualify for free school meals, according to Public School Review. The 2023 legislative session begins Jan.

New Mexico educators demand changes in classrooms

About 500 teachers and education activists marched Sunday outside the Roundhouse to demand better pay, smaller class sizes and better classroom results. Participants carried placards that read “Teachers Need Good Pay to Stay” and “No Teachers No Future” at the noon rally, organized by the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and the National Education Association-New Mexico. Julie Wojtko, a teacher and an advanced education services facilitator at Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces, came to the rally with her 11-year-old son, Aiden. “I’m here because teachers and students are more exhausted than ever, and we need the governor and our legislators’ help to reduce our class sizes [and] to increase our wages to reflect the work that we’ve been putting in during the pandemic,” said Wojtko, 41. She said supported Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposal to increase teachers’ wages by 7 percent this year, given how much her health insurance costs have risen recently.