The Public Education Department doled out $2.1 million to school districts Thursday, to be used for early literacy initiatives around the state.
This is the first round of such grant money, which is part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s “New Mexico Reads to Lead” initiative. The money represents a shift away from New Mexico’s traditional model of awarding education dollars through the state funding formula and giving districts discretion in how to spend them.
Instead, the Martinez administration set aside a portion of this year’s education budget to be given out as grants. Instead of receiving their money as a given, districts must submit applications detailing how it will be spent. Specifically, $8.5 million was earmarked for early literacy.
“Reading is the foundation for success in every other subject and that’s why we’ve made it a priority,” Martinez said in a written statement.
“For too long, we have seen the state throw money at our education problems without a real plan in place to help our students and improve their ability to learn in the classroom. These funds are strategically targeted to programs we know will help students the most.”
The shift toward competitive grants mirrors similar efforts by the U.S. Department of Education, which used the competitive “Race to the Top” grant program as a carrot, rewarding states for adopting reforms supported by the administration.
The PED received 43 applications from districts and charters. The first round of reading grants were:
⋄ $753,946 for Albuquerque Public Schools.
⋄ $379,760 for Bernalillo Public Schools.
⋄ $266,791 for Gallup-McKinley County Schools.
⋄ $266,800 for La Promesa Charter School in Albuquerque.
⋄ $177,068 for Los Alamos Public Schools.
⋄ $126,263 for Aztec Municipal Schools.
⋄ $101,000 for Pecos Independent School District.
⋄ $89,000 for Raton Public Schools.
State education chief Hanna Skandera said all the districts submitted quality applications.
“Every one of these districts has demonstrated they will use these funds in a way that will deliver results for our students,” she said. “We expect these dollars will make a difference with our students that struggle the most.”
Five other districts received provisional approval, meaning they will likely receive money but must provide the PED with further information. Those districts are Española, Central Consolidated, Moriarty-Edgewood, Lovington and Santa Fe.
The “Reads to Lead” initiative also includes money for statewide reading assessments in the early grades, reading coaches to assist teachers, and literacy-based teacher training.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal