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Funding Suggestions Try To Address Students’ Achievement Gap

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A task force looking to improve the way New Mexico distributes education funding is recommending more money for low-income students, changes to charter school funding, and district funding that is linked to the three-tier teacher licensure system.

But all those recommendations hinge on increasing state funding for education, at least in the opinion of Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks.

“Everything on this sheet is nothing more than just rearranging the chairs on the deck,” Brooks said.

Brooks, who sat on the task force, said a new funding formula might be more equitable but would create winners and losers across the state and wouldn’t address the central issue of sufficient funding.

“I’m OK with many of these recommendations,” he said. “However, none of them are adequate.”

So Brooks said he would support the recommendations only if there were enough state money to fund them without any districts or schools losing out. That would require about an 8 percent increase.

The task force recommendations mirror past studies of the funding formula by out-of-state groups and the Legislative Finance Committee.

One key recommendation is to funnel more money to students from low-income families and those learning English.

APS policy analyst Carrie Menapace said this recommendation is meant to help close the achievement gap.

“The idea behind this is that it really targets what we’re identifying as the achievement gap in this state, and will provide more funding available for those students who need those kinds of targeted resources,” she said.

Other task force members represented school boards, charter schools and legislative committees.

They also recommended shifting the way districts are compensated for employing more experienced teachers. The current system does not reflect the three-tier system, so districts have to dig into their budgets to pay more for teachers that move to a higher tier, entitling them to more pay.

Two recommendations could have adverse consequences for charter schools. The task force recommended eliminating an adjustment that gives additional funding to small schools. A new adjustment would be adopted for rural schools, and existing charter schools would keep a reduced size adjustment. But future charter schools would be ineligible for the adjustment.

The task force also recommended charter schools that haven’t shown positive academic results should not be eligible for “growth funding” that is awarded to schools that increase their enrollment.

APS board member Analee Maestas, a charter school administrator and advocate, said those recommendations target charters unfairly.

“I think those two are another effort to try to squeeze out the charter schools, even though they are effectively meeting the needs of our students in our communities,” she said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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