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House speaker optimistic about revising Impact Aid for schools

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, leads a limited floor session at the Roundhouse on Feb. 4. As the session enters its final eight days, Egolf is optimistic about passage of changes to the way the state funds some schools. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — House Speaker Brian Egolf said Thursday that he believes lawmakers have reached agreement to move forward with legislation that would allow school districts serving large Native American communities to keep tens of millions of dollars of annual Impact Aid from the federal government.

New Mexico’s complex education funding formula now takes credit for most of the federal funds, meaning districts get less money from the school funding formula.

But Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said he expects a proposal to change the formula and allow districts to keep the money to make its way through the Senate in the final days of the session. It won House approval 67-1 this month.

House Bill 6, Egolf said, could make over $80 million a year available to districts that have a small property tax base because of tax-exempt lands within their boundaries, such as military bases and tribal lands.

“This is a massive victory for social justice,” Egolf told reporters Thursday.

He said certain school districts in McKinley and San Juan counties are likely to benefit.

House Bill 6 is now awaiting action in the Senate Education Committee, one of two Senate panels that must clear the bill before it can reach the full Senate for consideration.

The measure will have to move quickly to pass by noon March 20, the end of the session.

“It appears we’ll have success on that issue,” the speaker said.

The state now reduces funding formula payments to districts based on 75% of their Impact Aid.

The system has been the subject of litigation.

Sponsoring the House legislation are Democratic Reps. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, Egolf, Harry Garcia of Grants and Doreen Wonda Johnson of Church Rock.

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