Editorial: Spend feds' windfall on students, not status quo - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Spend feds’ windfall on students, not status quo

With 5,000 fewer students, Albuquerque Public Schools in typical times would stand to lose over $50 million in state money – given state dollars are tied to enrollment.

The state’s largest school district has faced steady enrollment declines for the past decade, losing about 1% of its students every year. Last school year enrollment plummeted an additional 4% – 5% total – as families chose private schools, public charter schools or to homeschool during the pandemic rather than participate in APS’ remote learning. In September 2020 the district – which had seen enrollment highs in the 90,000-plus range a decade ago – was down to 76,000.

Despite the stark decline in student numbers, there are hundreds of openings for teachers and educational assistants in the district. Yet rather than re-allocate personnel to where they are most needed, Superintendent Scott Elder wants to avoid staff layoffs and use fully a quarter of the nearly $200 million APS is receiving in the latest round of federal relief money to offset the loss of state funding due to enrollment loss.

This is on top of “retention bonuses” that came months after employees completed the ’20-’21 school year and a pending proposal to pay off employees’ student loans.

Maintaining staff with lower enrollment might make sense if APS reduces class sizes in an effort to improve teacher-to-student ratios and address pandemic learning loss. But there’s no apparent direct plan to do anything except avoid layoffs.

And both approaches ignore the fact the federal aid is one-time money and salaries are recurring expenses.

They also ignore the fact APS has been unwilling/unable to address what has become a routine loss of students.

Public Education Department Secretary-designate Kurt Steinhaus understands this, has declared this the year of literacy and is advising New Mexico school districts not to use American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for recurring expenses like salaries. Instead, he suggests that districts target the $1.3 billion of federal money they will receive over the next three years toward student learning, on culturally and linguistically responsive books and videos, and to provide students with electronic devices or internet access.

New Mexico school districts have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in classroom infrastructure and address the achievement gap and learning loss – things that directly affect our teachers’ and students’ learning days.

So while it is tempting – and certainly easier – to use the federal windfall to maintain spending on staff, APS administrators need to be more imaginative and move the district beyond a status-quo mindset that has been losing students by the thousands for years.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


Editorial: 3 congressional maps range from status quo, to ...
One of the congressional maps proposed ... One of the congressional maps proposed by N.M.'s redistricting committee would largely preserve the status quo, a system that has served the majority of ...
Editorial: NM must change state law so killers can't ...
Matthew Chavez is serving a 23-year ... Matthew Chavez is serving a 23-year prison term for second-degree murder in the death of an Army vet ...
Editorial: NM needs proof that $4.6M in ‘academic coaching’ ...
It sounds like a great idea. ... It sounds like a great idea. A big team that can reach out to absentee or stuck-at-home students via ...
Editorial: Governor should not grab starring role
Lights! Camera! Action! was the traditional ... Lights! Camera! Action! was the traditional cue to members of a film crew at the beginning of a R ...
Editorial: Time is now to fix NM pedestrian 'death ...
The stretch of south Coors Boulevard ... The stretch of south Coors Boulevard where Brendan McClure was struck and killed by a Bernalillo Cou ...
Editorial: Keller best of field
Albuquerque is in the midst of ... Albuquerque is in the midst of a surge of violent crime and it's of no solace whatsoever to th ...
Webber is the choice for mayor
We support Webber's reelection, while hoping ... We support Webber's reelection, while hoping City Hall can move beyond its anti-transparency attitude to become more responsive
Editorial: A new stadium has appeal, but proposal needs ...
It's not a bad idea. In ... It's not a bad idea. In fact, it's one with considerable appeal and worthy of considerat ...
Editorial: Journal picks for the ABQ City Council
Today the Journal Editorial Board continues ... Today the Journal Editorial Board continues its endorsements in the Nov. 2 municipal election with i ...