Heinrich: New Mexicans Must Be Heard On Public Education Plan

Senator Heinrich Sent Letter To Secretary Betsy DeVos To Extend Deadline For New Mexico Public Education Department’s State Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos requesting to extend the deadline for the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) submission of its consolidated State plan in order to give the state sufficient time to evaluate and respond to public comments.

“These state education plans create the roadmap for education policy by setting accountability measures, identifying schools in need of improvement, and supporting educator development,” wrote Senator Heinrich. “That is why it is essential to hear from teachers, school leaders, parents, community leaders, civil rights leaders, and child advocates throughout the development of the plans.”

Senator Heinrich secured provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act, the overhaul of No Child Left Behind that was signed into law in 2015, to require states to have a comment period to ensure that their education plans are developed with parent, educator and stakeholder input. One of the major faults of No Child Left Behind was the lack of community input and engagement. Under the new law, NMPED must make its plan publicly available for a public comment period of no less than 30 days and demonstrate that comments were taken into account before submitting a final plan to the U.S. Department of Education. However, the current deadline only gives NMPED 48 hours after the public comment period closes to address the concerns and issues raised through public comment.

Senator Heinrich is also encouraging all New Mexicans to participate in New Mexico’s public comment period before it closes on March 31, 2017.

Full text of Senator Heinrich’s letter is below and a PDF is available here.

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Ave. SW

Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

I write to respectfully request that you extend the deadline for the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) submission of its consolidated State plan beyond the original April 3, 2017, deadline in order to give the state additional time to evaluate and respond to public comments.

On December 9, 2015, I was proud to vote for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) because it removed federal barriers to school improvement and maintained important civil rights guardrails. Further, multiple provisions were included in the law to ensure a wide range of stakeholders were consulted in the development and submission of a consolidated State plan. This consultation is essential in making sure the consolidated plan is workable for schools and districts in my state for years to come. These state education plans create the roadmap for education policy by setting accountability measures, identifying schools in need of improvement, and supporting educator development. That is why it is essential to hear from teachers, school leaders, parents, community leaders, civil rights leaders, and child advocates at multiple times throughout the development of the plans.

As you may know, NMPED published its consolidated State plan in time for the April 3, 2017, deadline. However, prior to submission, ESSA requires states to make their plans publically available via electronic means for a public comment period of no less than 30 days. ESSA goes on to say, “The State … shall provide an assurance that public comments were taken into account in the development of the State plan.” NMPED posted its consolidated State plan online on March 2, 2017, for public comment. By the book, the 30-day comment period ends on March 31, 2017. This only gives NMPED a brief timeline to address the concerns and issues raised through public comment and highlight any changes NMPED makes as a result of these comments. In order to ensure NMPED has enough time to review and incorporate edits from New Mexicans, I ask you to extend the deadline for NMPED so that they may address any concerns and issues raised. In addition, I ask that you answer the following questions:

· How will the Department ensure states adequately considered public comments?

· How will the Department ensure all measurement and reporting metrics (school growth, graduation rates, and teacher evaluations) are based on scientifically sound figures?

· How will the Department ensure state plans include adequate and meaningful opportunities for teacher professional development designed to increase student achievement?

By fulfilling this request, you will ensure the voices of parents, teachers, school leaders, and community members are heard. Please submit your responses in writing by March 31, 2017. If you have any questions about this request, please contact Elizabeth Hill at 202-224-5521. Thank you for your attention on this matter.

Sincerely,