Martinez strikes $5M payback to school districts

New Mexico school districts that had hoped to put a little more cushion in their budgets managed to persuade a sympathetic Legislature, but couldn’t get it past the governor’s veto pen. When she signed the 2018-2019 budget on March 7, Gov. Susana Martinez struck a line through $5 million state lawmakers had set aside to repay some school districts  whose cash accounts had been swept by $40. 3 million to help fill a large budget gap in 2017. Martinez had called the cash accounts of school districts “slush funds.” State superintendents — who drove to the capital en masse during the session to lobby lawmakers for repayment — call them reserve accounts that are used to make large payments like annual insurance, as well as extras like giving teachers stipends to take students to science camp. School leaders said during testimony in Santa Fe that taking the cash out of their accounts had hurt their ability to deal with unexpected expenses.

House passes early childhood funding bill, 36-33

Rep. Javier Martinez talked with NM In Depth’s Sylvia Ulloa about House Joint Resolution 1, which would tap New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund for early childhood programs. It passed the House Tuesday on a 36-33 vote.A plan to fund early childhood education programs in New Mexico by adding an extra 1 percent to the distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund cleared the same hurdle it did last year — though with about an inch less clearance. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Rep. Javier Martinez’s HJR1, Land Grant Fund Distributions, passed on the House floor on a 36-33 vote, one vote less than the resolution got in the 2017 session. Martinez said the debate about the benefits of early childhood education was largely over. The debate now is how to fund it to an extent that it could change the education system. “We can invest in global stocks or we can invest in our children,” he said in opening statements.

Last-ditch effort aims to pay back NM school districts $40M

Is it possible to sneak $41 million into New Mexico’s budget — even after the House has already sent its version over to the Senate? School district leaders are sure going to try. The House Appropriations Committee heard impassioned pleas Wednesday from the Republican sponsor of a bill to pay back public school districts whose cash reserves were taken by the state to plug a gaping hole in the fiscal 2017 budget. Superintendents and school board members from all corners of New Mexico and Albuquerque traveled to the state capitol to show their support for the measure. The effort got a late start because of an unexpected increase of “new money” that was forecast Jan.

More funding would help, but other issues also impede early ed in rural New Mexico

With the 2018 legislative session fully underway, lawmakers are once again debating funding levels for early education. A tug a war continues to play out between those who say New Mexico ought to tap its Land Grant Permanent Fund, one of the largest such funds in the nation, to dramatically expand the reach of early ed programs and those who advocate a slower, incremental approach to increasing funding levels. As the debate rages on, current services aren’t evenly distributed around the state. New state dollars often go to places where they’re already going, helping to expand the number of children served in places where facilities to educate young children already exist. It leaves a lot of rural New Mexico’s children out in the cold when it comes to New Mexico PreK.

Education committees hear budget proposals, including potential teacher pay raise

There is only a $400,000 difference between what the governor’s office and the Legislature’s budget arm are requesting for the main category of public school funding (that’s the State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG funding, for you education wonks), but there are some interesting departures in the details. 

If you are a teacher, you are going to be really interested in those differences. Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski and analysts from the Legislative Finance Committee and the Public Education Department came before a joint meeting of the Senate and House Education committees on Friday to detail their budget proposals for fiscal 2019. For teachers just starting out or who just reached a new teacher level, there could be a $2,000 salary bump in your future if the LFC gets its way, plus a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase. If the PED plan prevails in negotiations, all teachers will receive a 2 percent across the board salary increase, with other school personnel receiving a 1 percent cost of living increase. Then, exemplary teachers would be up for a one-time $5,000 bonus and exemplary high school math or science teachers would be eligible for up to $10,000.

Will lawmakers make 2018 the Year of the Child?

New Mexico’s children have arguably taken the brunt as the state has struggled through tough budgets the past couple of years, with cuts to public schools, state colleges and programs such as home visiting and expanded school years.

But with oil and gas revenues re-bounding, could 2018 be the year of the child at the Roundhouse?

Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski

State, advocacy groups make their final cases in PED lawsuit

Students in New Mexico are nowhere near prepared to go to college, join the workforce or engage in our democracy, according to closing arguments filed this week by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF, in a lawsuit against the state. The groups, representing families and school districts,  say the state Public Education Department isn’t providing the resources needed to properly educate its students, in violation of the state Constitution. “The problem is that for years the state has starved our public schools and denied our children the educational supports and programs and services they need so that they can learn and thrive,” said Gail Evans, legal director for the Center, who said she expects a decision from District Court Judge Sarah Singleton by the spring. Lawyers for the state PED agree that New Mexico schools need to improve and concede the job of the schools is to make students college and career ready. But that’s about all they agree on.