SANTA FE, N.M. — Two Santa Fe legislators have asked for an attorney general’s opinion on the constitutionality of the Santa Fe school board’s recent move to hire a private company to provide teachers for and run a new program aimed at getting dropouts back into classes.
Democratic Reps. Jim Trujillo and Luciano “Lucky” Varela jointly requested the opinion today on the Engage Santa Fe program that is to be operated by Florida-based Atlantic Education Partners.
“We are concerned because the Santa Fe Public Schools is creating a new school for drop-outs and currently enrolled students, and turning that school over to private hands. Private contractors do provide many services in public schools, but when their share of the budget is ninety-percent, it concerns us that a private school program has been created with public funds,” say the pepresentatives in their request letter.
The local branch of the National Education Association has argued that the program violates a state constitutional bar on using state education dollars to support a private school. Superintendent Joe Boyd, who will be principal at the school with no additional salary, disputes that and notes that school districts already hire private companies for other kinds of services.
Reps Trujillo and Varela asked Attorney General King to address this specific question: “May a private corporation operate a public school without violating the New Mexico Constitution?”