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Privatization experiment violates constitution

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Dr. (Joel) Boyd has proposed a great concept of a program. He wants to search for all city dropouts and enroll them in a degree-granting program.

Engage Santa Fe does sound wonderful but for one major point: He is hiring a Florida-based startup for-profit company, Atlantic Education Partners (AEP), to provide this education instead of empowering and funding SFPS employees to develop a program.

Engage Santa Fe (ESF) is not right for Santa Fe Public Schools.

Reason #1: Its existence violates the constitution of New Mexico. The agreement made by four of the five school board members signs 90 percent of the funding per child (around $6,500) over to a private for-profit company. This clearly violates Article XII, Sec. 3 of our constitution: The schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions provided for by this constitution shall forever remain under the exclusive control of the state, and no part of the proceeds arising from the sale or disposal of any lands granted to the state by Congress, or any other funds appropriated, levied or collected for educational purposes, shall be used for the support of any sectarian, denominational or private school, college or university.

New Mexico’s founders specifically included this article to ensure sufficient funds for our public schools. Just a few years back, the state budget paid out well more than 50 percent to public schools. This year, we are down to 43 percent.

School Board President (Steven) Carrillo equates giving this money to a private company to other service contracts that are awarded “all the time.” Even if we include contracts to therapists, etc., what is different here, and why our constitution applies here, is that these funds would be supplanting direct classroom instruction – much different from every other contracted service – and it would provide them to a specifically forbidden private school.

Reason #2: AEP cannot provide all that students need without depending on SFPS for a lot further support. The contract vaguely states that AEP will test for ELL, special ed and other various special needs, but there is no promise for them to provide those services. It’s highly probable that we would have to use our measly 10 percent of state funding to fill these voids.

Reason #3: Accountability. Do we know for certain what constitutes a full-time student at ESF? No. We do have strict guidelines for our regular students. Might a student possibly sign up, log on to a computer and have someone else do the work, or find some other way to circumvent usual state requirements? Very possible.

We have to wonder why there was no effort to create such a program through our own system – by expanding and differentiating the Academy at Larragoite, for example. This is not to say that all of our existing schools are completely successful, but we do have to wonder: How much better would all of our schools be if the funding every school requests would so easily be handed over to them? Ask most principals in SFPS to tell you (confidentially, of course) how easy it is to get what they need. Be ready for a long laugh.

AEP is not a proven entity. There is no history of “success” or failure to study because this is a brand new company, set up in – yes, (Hannah) Skandera-Jeb Bush favored territory – Florida. Almost all of our state-designated funding will be going to an out-of-state corporation with no ties to our community except to use us in a grand experiment.

There are many more reasons – conflict of interest for Dr. Boyd to be principal too: Will this principal have to jump through the hoops required of the others? Community desire: The SFPS community was very clear in providing input as to “school reform” that they wanted a hands-on trade-type/technology center – not the two private-school-type schools being formed now. The International Baccalaureate and Engage SF schools look great on paper and the very few students to benefit (whether learning a lot or just putting in time) will be getting a lot of funding thrown their way.

We must regularly ask the school board members: Are these kinds of programs you are approving what all of our students need?

Bernice Garcia Baca is president of the National Education Association-Santa Fe.

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