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APS board defers decision on NRA funding

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After an emotional meeting that resulted in tears and curse words, Albuquerque Public Schools has deferred making a decision on accepting funding from the National Rifle Association Foundation.

The Board of Education was slated to vote on a resolution regarding school safety and security, which included a clause that the district would no longer accept NRA funds to put toward Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

But after a lengthy discussion from board members and divided public input, the Board of Education decided to address the resolution at a future meeting after it gets more information from the community.

APS schools have received a total of $106,000 from 2012 to the present from the NRA Foundation, according to Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder.

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APS board member Peggy Muller-Aragon looks over the draft of a resolution regarding school safety, which includes clause that the district would no longer accept NRA money to help fund JROTC. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Board President David Peercy told the Journal that the discussion Wednesday night was more aimed toward school safety than just about people’s stance on the NRA.

And he emphasized JROTC was never at risk of being eliminated, saying had the resolution passed, it would have been funded through other means.

Board member Peggy Muller-Aragon, an NRA card-carrying member, was the most openly opposed to the resolution. She felt the resolution didn’t address some of the NRA’s efforts like teaching gun safety through its Eddie Eagle gun avoidance program.

Other board members’ consensus was that the resolution deals with a very dividing topic and it was crucial to continue to get input from more students and stakeholders.

“I want to work as a community and not as 20 adults showing up and giving their opinion,” board member Elizabeth Armijo, who became emotional in her comments.

“I’m f—– sick of it.”

The proposed resolution the board was discussing read, “The Albuquerque Public Schools will not accept NRA funds in the future for its JROTC programs until the NRA takes a national leadership role in supporting actions that might reduce gun violence in our communities and schools.”

On Wednesday, the NRA pushed back, sending out a statement that openly disagreed with the proposed resolution.

“The Albuquerque school board should focus on improving academic outcomes for its students and not promoting the political agenda of extremist gun control groups. The school board would punish a program such as JROTC, which teaches leadership and develops character among local youth, just to make a political point,” wrote spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen.

A week ago Wednesday, a group of about 30 rallied outside of APS headquarters, protesting NRA funding. The group, which is also the organizer behind the school safety advocacy event March for Our Lives, chanted, banged on the doors and called for the district to stop taking “bloody money.”

At the meeting Wednesday night, 17-year-old Amaia Biewen, a member of the group, reiterated the group’s call for APS to stop taking funding from the NRA.

“Our children are being trained in ROTC to use guns,” added community member Alan Wagman.

And NRA members and parents spoke words of praise for JROTC, noting students often get scholarships and other opportunities from the class.

“(The cadets) are some of the finest young people I have ever seen,” said Nancy Loisel, a member of the NRA.

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