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Editorial: APS should dump plans for clinic, focus on students

Once again, when faced with criticism of a bad adult decision, the Albuquerque Public Schools administration raises the spectre of children’s educations suffering rather than doing the right thing.

A state judge is allowing a lawsuit questioning APS’ $375 million mill levy election to proceed. District Judge Nan Nash says voters might not have understood that the levy is a “public schools building tax”; plaintiff Robert Pidcock argues in his suit that the district’s planned $5 million employee health clinic is, quite simply, not a “school building.”

And Kizito Wijenje, executive director of the APS capital master plan, told the school board in a document this week that the lawsuit means “student instruction will be interrupted, delayed and in many cases undermined” and “student/teacher/parent life health and safety will be compromised due to lack of funding for crucial ADA and security projects.”

It smacks of the district’s response earlier this year after being criticized for pumping up its budget deficit by $4.3 million so high school teachers could have one less class and one more “professional learning community” session each week. That’s when Superintendent Raquel Reedy and chief finance officer Tami Coleman quickly employed the politically expedient scare tactic of saying that they might not fill open teaching and support staff positions.

If APS is really dedicated to finishing its $9.4 million renovation of Valley High, $12.5 million renovation of Albuquerque High, and building the new $8.2 million Northwest Family School, $3.2 million classroom block at OƱate Elementary and $19 million athletic complex at Manzano High, it will abandon its duplicative and expensive employee health clinic and take a lesson from higher ed.

The district already provides its employees with the choice of two health plans. And to the south, New Mexico State University is addressing a growing deficit by shuttering its 30-year-old employee health center and turning employee health services over to a privately run clinic off campus.

As the 31st largest school district in the nation, APS is supposed to be in the child education business, not the adult health-care business. The administration should heed Judge Nash’s ruling and Pidcock’s lawsuit, dump plans for the health clinic and get back to the real business of serving the Metro area’s students.

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.