Albuquerque Public Schools officials expressed anger and dismay on Wednesday, after the district was left out of the first round of state funding for “early college high schools,” where high school students can take college classes for dual credit and work ahead toward a college degree.
APS Superintendent Winston Brooks called the district’s omission “unconscionable,” and one school board member suggested it might be retribution for APS’ resistance to new teacher evaluations and other state education initiatives.
“I can’t help but wonder if APS is being punished for the kind of feedback we’ve been giving,” said board member Lorenzo Garcia. “It just strikes me that if you don’t comply, you don’t get any support from this administration. There’s something wrong with this picture.”
Public Education Department spokesman Larry Behrens said in a written statement Wednesday that the successful applications were chosen by a panel of reviewers from outside the PED. He said the APS application didn’t show enough involvement from the business community.
“We were clear from the first announcement that true involvement from the business community is an absolute requirement,” Behrens wrote. “Winning applications included business partnerships where leaders agreed to help raise funds and provide internship opportunities. These things were missing from the APS-CNM application, but we will work with APS and CNM officials to strengthen their early college plans.”
Behrens also emphasized districts that were unsuccessful in the first round will be able to work with PED to improve their applications and potentially get future funds.
The funding was awarded to Las Cruces, Roswell and Mesa Vista – a small community west of Taos. The awards ranged from $100,000 to $137,000. Las Cruces already has one early college high school, which Gov. Susana Martinez talked about extensively in her state of the state speech.
APS also has an existing early college high school, called the Early College Academy. That school, located near Albuquerque High School, generally has a waiting list and has a graduation rate that tops 90 percent.
APS had hoped to use state early college money to help defray the expense of the new College and Career High School, which is opening later this month and is a partnership between APS and Central New Mexico Community College. Martinez and state education secretary-designate Hanna Skandera both attended a May news conference where APS and CNM announced their plans for the new school.
During his remarks to the school board, Brooks went so far as to play a clip of Martinez speaking in support of the school at the May news conference, talking about how important the school will be for students in Albuquerque.
Brooks said he thinks APS students are being punished because he and the board have opposed Martinez’s education agenda, but also emphasized that this will not prevent the College and Career High School from opening on schedule.
“Quite frankly we don’t need their 100 grand, we’re going to do it with or without it,” Brooks said.