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Home | Tag Archives: nm legislature

Tag Archives: nm legislature

NM Legislature Faces Mandatory ‘Rethink’ of Education System

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico state lawmakers say their number-one priority in the upcoming legislative session is to improve the state’s public education system – a pledge they’ll need to keep based on a court order.

In July 2018, a state district judge ruled that New Mexico was violating the rights of at-risk students. President of the New Mexico teachers’ union Betty Patterson said resources for low-income and minority families, including Native American and special-needs students, will need to be improved, according to language in the court ruling.

“That says that students who are at risk need to have higher funding and more of their needs need to be met,” Patterson said. “So a lot of the things we’re going to be pushing through will meet that lawsuit and the requirements of the judge.”

The court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2014 by advocacy groups and school districts that accused the state of not meeting constitutional obligations to provide all students with a sufficient education. The New Mexico Legislature convenes for a 60-day session on January 15.

Patterson said legislators also will need to address salaries across school districts if they don’t want educators fleeing to other states for better-paying jobs.

“We really are looking this year for compensation packages where educators get a better increase in salaries and all school employees get at least a 10 percent raise in their salaries,” she said.

New Mexico consistently ranks last or near-last in the nation for its public education system. But with a newly elected Democratic governor, House and Senate Democratic majorities and extra state income from the booming oil and gas industry, Patterson said she hopes this is the year for a turnaround.

“But we need to do whatever it takes to get New Mexico students out of the 50th spot in the nation,” she said. “It’s time for our students to be moving up.”

Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was sworn in as New Mexico’s new governor on Tuesday, has vowed to overhaul the current teacher evaluation system that relies on an “A-to-F” grading system for public schools.

Author: Roz Brown – Public News Service (NM)

NM Roundhouse Legal Battle Stokes Hopes for Education

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s Legislative Council hasn’t ruled out the possibility of suing Gov. Susana Martinez ahead of a potential special session of the Legislature. And family advocates are watching closely, hoping for a resolution that helps education in the state.

Lawmakers passed a bipartisan financial plan that the governor signed – but only after removing every cent of higher education funding. She also vetoed House Bill 202, which would close tax loopholes for some businesses and make millions available to primary schools.

Sharon Kayne, communications director with New Mexico Voices for Children, said her group is one of many hoping lawmakers will turn around the state’s dire education funding situation.

“Schools have been required to consistently do more with less, and that ends up meaning there are crowded classrooms, there are not enough teachers,” Kayne said. “There are not enough teaching materials. Teachers can’t even get the district to pay for scotch tape.”

According to Kayne, Albuquerque junior high schools recently eliminated all sports, because they said they can no longer afford them. Meanwhile, Gov. Martinez has stood by her strict policy of not increasing taxes, and has accused lawmakers of wasting time with the tax legislation they presented.

The governor has said that by refusing to approve any funding for higher education, she has resisted playing into the institutional politics of colleges and universities. But Kayne said lawmakers see it as a move to draw them back to the Roundhouse over the budget, in a session that will cost around $50,000 a day. Kayne said it’s families who are put in jeopardy over this kind of posturing.

“You know, we gave big cuts to corporations. That hasn’t brought us any jobs,” she said. “We’ve divested ourselves, our higher education. We’ve cut spending by about 30 percent on a per student basis, which is enormous. And tuition has gone up incredibly high to compensate for that.”

Kayne said that low- and middle-income families will be the the benefactors, whether the governor yields in a lawsuit, or decides to compromise in a rare extraordinary session of the legislature. A date has yet to be set for either, on the legislative or judicial calendars.

NM Progressives Try to Hold Line on Cuts to Schools, Public Services

SANTA FE, N. M. – Progressive leaders in the New Mexico Legislature are calling for compromise during the special budget session, trying to spare education and social services from deeper cuts.

State lawmakers must close a $600 million budget shortfall caused by a drop in oil and gas revenue.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, said he’s disappointed that the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee voted down a Senate proposal to delay $20 million to $30 million in additional tax cuts for big business, scheduled to take effect in the next few years.

“We weren’t asking for a tax increase. We were just asking for a delay in further tax cuts,” McCamley explained. “And for them not to play their part, that’s not what a community is. When we do these cuts, they are real – and they will hurt.”

Already, both sides have agreed to sweep money out of school districts’ reserve funds. Also on the table are cuts to the New Mexico Department of Health that would affect domestic violence shelters and programs for homeless veterans, among others.

New Mexico State University has already begun laying people off. The state Senate spared Medicaid, which comes with matching funds of four federal dollars for every state dollar. But the final cuts are still being negotiated.

Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said no group can be exempted from the budget pain.

“If you look at public school reserves, that’s money that is going to be taken out of public school districts throughout the state,” said Martinez. “And so now, we’re asking corporations to pay their fair share.”

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is concerned that the House focused on the death penalty and crime-related bills – topics she felt should be addressed instead in the regular legislative session that starts in January.

“What we need right now is to close the gaps on our two budgets,” Stewart insisted, “so that we do not have our bond rating decreased; and so we’re not writing hot checks with money we do not have.”

Conservative lawmakers have argued that corporate tax cuts are necessary to maintain the kind of business climate that recently lured Facebook to commit to building a large facility in Las Lunas.

But Democrats counter that tax cuts only worsen the deficit, which affects funding for infrastructure and education for a better-qualified workforce – both vital to companies considering relocating.

Author: Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM

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