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Schools that serve most low-income families will receive extra funds

La Mesa Elementary in Albuquerque in one of the schools that may receive aid as part of a new state program that will send funds to public schools with the greatest share of students from low-income families. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Seventeen Albuquerque Public Schools will receive money as part of a new state program that will send aid to public schools around the state with the greatest share of students from low-income families.

The Public Education Department on Monday announced how $15 million for the 2022 fiscal year will be divided among 108 schools statewide. The two-year program was authorized in legislation – Senate Bill 17 – which the governor signed April 5.

It uses a “Family Income Index,” which was developed by the PED as well as the Taxation and Revenue and Human Services departments, to decide how much aid to send to different schools. The index is essentially the percentage of a school’s students who come from families with a very or extremely low income. A family of four that makes $34,000 or less would qualify, according to a PED news release.

During last year’s legislative session, PED officials asked the state for about $3.3 billion to fund public education, which was only a marginal increase from the year before, and to create this pilot program that will funnel a total of $30 million in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years to certain schools. The money must be used for math and reading support, hiring school counselors and social workers, creating family resource centers or other academic interventions.

Principals and other school leaders will be able to decide how the school can best use the additional money, Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in an interview.

“Within a district, especially some of our larger districts, you have certain areas of the district that have higher concentrations of poverty levels than others,” he said. “Concentrated poverty has serious consequences and produces a more increased level of need for those schools. The Family Income Index is a very specific target approach to directly attack the consequences of child poverty.”

In Albuquerque, La Mesa Elementary, a school with 440 students and a 0.77 family income index in the Southeast part of the city, will get the most assistance, $323,726. Atrisco Elementary, a Southwest Albuquerque school that has an index of 0.63 and 285 students, will get $170,432.

APS officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Statewide, some schools with fewer than 50 students received $20,000. El Camino Real Community School in Santa Fe, which has 840 students, will get $434,174 – the largest distribution, according to the PED.

The 108 schools that will benefit from the program this year are from 69 of the 89 districts in the state, and 10 of the 98 charter schools will also receive aid.

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