New Mexico’s Constitution requires that a “uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of and open to all children of school age in the state shall be established and maintained”.
In the upcoming 2009 New Mexico Legislative session, a landmark education bill is expected to be introduced. The Legislation proposes to dramatically change New Mexico’s 35-year old public education funding formula.
For the last several years, it has become increasingly evident that the current funding for education is insufficient to meet the many and diverse needs of New Mexico’s school districts. (A district could insert specific info—such as “our district has been forced to request emergency supplemental funding”). A $1million, 2-year comprehensive study and work by a statewide task force has identified/determined the lack of funding to be more than $350 million.
The proposed legislation also recommends a markedly different distribution system—focused on the poverty level and demographic profile of each school district, and thus providing funding to meet the specific needs of each district.
What Would It Take to Fund Our Schools Appropriately?
Several important recommendations have been made to our Legislature to reverse the worrisome trend of decreased funding. The recommendations, if fully funded, would ensure each New Mexico school district would receive sufficient funding for its students and programs. Statewide, an additional $350 million to public schools are recommended for the following areas:
- Make funding decisions within local communities – what’s best for our district’s students?
- Additional teachers to support language and cultural heritage programs
- Increasing the instructional time for students
- Add specialists to work with small groups of students
- Provide teachers with opportunities for professional development
An extensive study was conducted in 2006 by a state-appointed, independent, Funding Formula Task Force to determine whether our public schools were being provided sufficient funding. The outcome was clear – virtually every New Mexico school district, whether small or large, is not operating with sufficient funding, which is mandated in the New Mexico Constitution. The percentage of the state’s revenue has fallen from 51.6% in 1986 to 43.3% in 2008. This has dramatically impacted how our schools are able to pay for classroom instruction, school materials, educational salaries, and the day-to-day business of educating our children.
Why Do Schools Need Additional Dollars?
Just like a family budget where expenses have grown faster than the family’s income, costs for education over the years have exceeded the amount of revenue to school districts. Everything from books and computers, to desks and chairs, have increased in cost. In addition, school districts are faced with new educational requirements and mandates which have created the need for additional dollars. In addition, the majority of state increases for public schools has been earmarked for salaries, leaving little left over to implement important programs that help children succeed and to provide teacher training.