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PED: APS is ‘bloated’ with highly paid bureaucrats

Correction: The graphic included in this story has been updated to reflect Monica Armenta’s proper title.

The New Mexico Public Education Department is attacking Albuquerque Public Schools again, calling it a “bloated” organization full of highly paid administrators.

On Thursday, PED sent the media an email listing the names and salaries of all APS employees who make more than $100,000 a year, comparing that number to the number who did in 2011.

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According to PED, the district now has 35 “top bureaucrats,” with six-figure salaries – adding up to roughly $4 million. In 2011, only 20 employees were at that pay grade, totalling $2.4 million.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy earns the largest salary, $240,000 a year. She said on Sunday that PED was “cherry-picking” data to support preconceived notions, and she said the district is a massive entity, with 80,000 students, a $1 billion budget and 12,000 employees.

At APS, the 35 top administrators represent roughly one-quarter of a percent of total staff.

Deputy Public Education Secretary Paul Aguilar said APS should examine its “inflated and bloated executive team” to find savings, rather than dropping valuable programs like intermural middle school sports, which is when schools compete with one another.

“APS needs to make the students the priority,” he told the Journal. “We’re not telling them what they have to do with individual employees, but they need to be thoughtful about what they are paying their executive team, which is adults, and the money they are spending on kids.”

Earlier this month, APS announced a proposal to cut competitive middle school athletics – basketball, track and field, and volleyball – saving about $600,000. Noncompetitive intramural sports and physical education classes will continue.

PED said Friday that the increase in administrator salaries – totalling nearly $2 million – could have paid for the program for more than three years. The critique of APS compensation levels followed criticism PED leveled earlier this month when APS first announced the sports cuts.

In a statement emailed to the Journal on Sunday, Reedy said APS administrators have seen their salaries increase by less than 1 percent a year since 2011, which is below the rate of inflation, she said.

Adjusted for inflation, APS administrator pay has actually decreased by more than 5 percent.

Reedy attributed the growth in six-figure salaries to this “gradual, slow increase over an extended period of time,” which is a “general occurrence.”

PED salaries show “very similar changes,” Reedy said.

At PED, five of 231 employees – or 2 about percent – make over $100,000, including Aguilar and Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, who is paid $126,250.

“There are undoubtedly good reasons for this, and it is not our place to make judgments,” she said. “During my 35 plus years as an APS administrator, I have always prided myself with my willingness to work closely and collaboratively with the state education authorities.”

Besides raising the salary issue, Aguilar also criticized APS for projecting a 2 percent K-12 education funding cut for the next fiscal year.

“That doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “It’s some wild assumption.”

The state’s fiscal year 2018 budget will not be set until the Legislature holds a special session, which has not yet been scheduled. APS Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman has said she believes a 2 percent cut is likely – about $12 million for APS.

In addition, APS is planning for higher expenses coupled with lower enrollment, adding up to another $13 million for a total loss of $25 million.

Earlier this month, the APS Board of Education approved a 2 percent budget reduction scenario that includes a number of unpopular options, such as the middle school sports cut, larger class sizes and a heavier high school schedule.

Reedy addressed the budget last week during a school board meeting, stressing that the plan is “constantly changing and evolving.”

“We don’t even know how much money we’ll be getting from the state,” she said. “Still, we have to develop a plan. We can’t wrap up this school year and start next year without one.”

The APS board is scheduled to vote on the final budget on May 22. It will be sent to PED for review in early June.

 

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