Waivers on school class sizes now poised to expire

February 11, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — School districts across the state could be forced to hire more teachers next year.

Temporary relief provided by the state during the Great Recession enabled New Mexico school districts to increase class sizes as a way to cope with reduced education funding from the state.

But that relief is about to end unless it is extended by the Legislature, and that could mean additional costs for [auth] districts, according to the Albuquerque Journal ( ).

The Albuquerque district has used waivers to exceed maximum class sizes by as much as 7 percent over the past three years. Without the waivers, it could be forced to hire as many as 300 teachers at a cost of $18 million, according to the newspaper.

Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, has sponsored a joint resolution that attempts to fix the problem with a constitutional amendment that would require smaller classes by the 2020-2021 school year, while putting the onus on lawmakers to give districts enough money to meet the requirements. It also would allow waivers to continue until then under certain conditions, including lack of funding from the state.

Under Keller’s resolution, legal class size maximums would eventually be smaller than they are now: 18 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes, 22 students per class in grades four through eight, and 25 students per class in high schools, except for electives like band.

Keller said he believes a constitutional amendment would take the legislative politics out of class size and put pressure on lawmakers to fund education adequately. It also could make a big difference in improving education in New Mexico, he said.

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