Education Department holds off on order to trim 'administrative burdens'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Aug. 5—As public schools across New Mexico reopen to students for the new year and others prepare for their first day in coming weeks, the state Public Education Department still has not made clear how it will fulfill the governor's executive order to trim "administrative burdens" for districts.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's order in late May directed the education agency to cut repetitive data-reporting responsibilities by 25 percent by the start of the school year, with a goal of freeing up classroom time by lightening teachers' and staff members' administrative duties.

"It's not so much fewer data points, it's making sure that what we collect is exactly what's needed and it's not collected multiple times a year," Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said at a May news conference on the initiative at Aspen Community School.

But the department, which oversees K-12 public schools in New Mexico, said this week it is still waiting for a report from New York-based education management consulting firm Improve LLC on streamlining the administrative duties, which will be necessary to move forward with the initiative.

"All PED departments have been working aggressively to meet the goal, but I don't know yet when a report on that work will be finalized," spokeswoman Carolyn Graham wrote in an email Tuesday.

When the report is ready, Graham added, the Public Education Department will brief the governor and release it to the public.

It was unclear how much Improve is being paid for its work. The company's contract is held by the nonprofit Catalyst:Ed, which received funding from the Santa Fe-based Thornburg Foundation. The Public Education Department did not provide the contract's cost, and the Thornburg Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, wrote in an email Wednesday, "We are eager to roll out our plan to significantly reduce administrative burdens to educators, principals and district leadership as the school year begins. We expect to do so soon."

Hayden added, the Governor's Office does not intend to extend or adjust the executive order.

The order came as the education department saw turnover among some of its deputy secretary positions and other high-level jobs. Lujan Grisham's office also announced Steinhaus would be reducing his role at the department due to health concerns. There was initial confusion over whether Steinhaus planned to resign, as suggested in an internal email provided to The New Mexican by a department staffer.

In an email Wednesday, department spokeswoman Judy Robinson wrote Steinhaus has since resumed his full-time duties as secretary.

"I'm happy to share with you that after taking some time off, Sec. Steinhaus has received a clean bill of health from his doctors and is back at full speed," Robinson wrote.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario "Larry" Chavez said the district is looking forward to the data-reporting changes when they are implemented.

Some data, he wrote in an email, is now required to be reported to the Public Education Department through a data portal and also to individual divisions within the agency.

"By resubmitting information that is already submitted through other methods, it does create a burden on district and site staff as well as doubles the work," Chavez wrote.

He met with staff from the Legislative Education Study Committee earlier this summer to discuss what kind of data reporting could be streamlined.

"We understand the initiative may not be ready for implementation by the start of the school year," Chavez wrote, "however, knowing this is coming is an indication our state leaders are listening to educators. ... We are willing to wait in order to have clear guidelines and the ability to make the transition smoothly."