Since at least 2005, the New Mexico Legislature has approved waivers to the limits on public school class sizes that are mandated in state statute. In fact, because the law only allows the waivers for two years running, lawmakers have actually granted routine waivers of the waiver rules.
So who knew just $20 million – 0.8 percent of the state’s $2.6 billion in K-12 spending – could get the state’s school districts to finally comply with the law?
Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, says that’s all it will take to ensure there are just 20 children in kindergarten classes, 22 to 24 in elementary school classes and 27 to 30 in middle and high school classes. And so she’s earmarked $20 million in “above the line” spending to return to statutory class caps.
There are skeptics who have legitimate concerns that $20 million isn’t enough. But Stewart’s assurance comes from her position as Education chair as well as a longtime employee of the state’s largest school district. That should comfort fellow lawmakers who will want to hold districts accountable on getting this done if the funding is approved.