Education Department presents budget request to lawmakers - Albuquerque Journal

Education Department presents budget request to lawmakers

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The state Public Education Department is asking lawmakers for an additional $53.5 million for at-risk students and a 4% salary increase for educators.

In fiscal year 2020, the total schools and PED operational budget was $3.283 billion. Next fiscal year, the PED is eyeing $3.455 billion, according to PED Deputy Secretary Tim Hand. The department is asking for an additional $167.5 million in fiscal year 2021 for the school funding formula, he said.

Education Secretary-designate Ryan Stewart put the proposal before the Legislative Finance Committee – a group of lawmakers that works on fiscal issues – on Thursday.

The PED is seeking $93 million to fund 4% salary increases for all school personnel, including teachers.

Stewart told the Journal that the increase would apply to everyone from education assistants and custodian employees to top administration. And it could even apply to superintendents, although that would be up to districts’ boards of education, he said.

Teacher base salaries were raised in this year’s legislative session to $41,000, $50,000 and $60,000 for Level 1, 2 and 3 teachers, respectively.

Although the PED isn’t requesting an increase in the tier bases again, the 4% raise would also apply to teachers.

Last session, lawmakers also approved a 6% raise for other school staffers. If the PED’s request is approved, school personnel are looking at a 10% pay raise over two years.

The PED is also looking to increase funding for students who are considered “at risk,” used to describe students who face hurdles such as learning English or coming from low-income families.

The additional funding request comes as the state is responding to a judge’s ruling in Yazzie/ Martinez, a case that found New Mexico was not providing sufficient education for students with disabilities, English-language learners, students from low-income families and Native American students. The plaintiffs have argued that the state hasn’t done enough in response. Gail Evans, lead counsel for the Yazzie plaintiffs, said the PED’s request does not go far enough to provide resources for these students.

The PED is looking to increase at-risk index funding in fiscal year 2021 by $53.5 million.

Some lawmakers voiced concern over how PED will track the funding for at-risk students.

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, said he has heard concerns that schools serving large numbers of at-risk students are receiving less money than other schools with smaller at-risk populations.

In the presentation, Stewart pointed out challenges to tracking the money. For instance, existing systems don’t follow exactly where each dollar for at-risk students is allocated. But he said the PED is working to streamline the oversight.

Other priorities include consolidating funding streams for K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time, two programs that extend the school year with the aim of increasing participants’ academic gains.

Stewart said initial applications for the next fiscal year project that nearly 50,000 students will opt into K-5 Plus. That’s up from 17,827 students from the current year.

For extended learning, initial applications for fiscal year 2021 estimate 190,000 students, compared with this year’s 84,152.

In the past, districts have over-applied for these programs and ended up with fewer participants.

Stewart said the PED aims to combine the two programs’ funding streams, because money is left over from K-5 Plus that could go to pay for an increased demand for Extended Learning Time.

Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration and the Legislative Finance Committee will release their spending plans for the coming budget year before the 30-day session starts on Jan. 21.

New Mexico lawmakers will have an estimated $797 million in “new” money, or revenue in excess of current spending levels, available in the coming year for public schools and other state programs, according to new revenue figures released this week by legislative and executive economists. It could allow for additional spending growth after lawmakers increased education spending by $446 million during this year’s legislative session.

Journal Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this report.

 

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