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          Front Page




Federal Money Increases for New Mexico Schools

By Gabriela C. Guzman
Journal Staff Writer
    SANTA FE— The good news is New Mexico will get more federal dollars for the next school year to educate its poorest students. The bad news is more than two-thirds of the state's districts will receive less money.
    For the current school year, $109.5 million was divided among New Mexico's 89 districts. In August, there will be $2.7 million more for a total of $112.2 million. But 59 districts will see their amounts drop— in some cases by 10 percent.
    Public schools across the country rely on the federal money, officially called Title I. It pays for tutoring, school supplies and after-school programs for children living below the poverty level, according to federal and state education officials.
    "It plays an important role in implementing No Child Left Behind," said state Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia, referring to federal education requirements.
    Districts will see a fluctuation in their amounts depending on the number of children ages 5 to 17 living below the poverty level in their areas, as determined by the U.S. census, said Sam Ornelas, Title I director for the New Mexico Public Education Department.
    Fort Sumner Municipal Schools might have to cut a teaching position and scale back on classroom supplies once its Title I allocation drops from $124,729 this year to $112,256 next year, said Superintendent Patricia Miller.
    "It makes it harder to do an excellent job," Miller said.
    Some of the 30 districts with increasing allocations include Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.
    The district set to see the largest percentage jump is one of the state's tiniest. House Municipal Schools, with 200 students, will have $14,202 next year. This year, the district received $1,549.
    House Superintendent Art Brokenbek was elated his northeastern district will receive $12,653 more— an increase of 816 percent over this year.
    "We just have to scrape for everything," he said.
    The figures from the U.S. Department of Education are considered preliminary and might change before August if districts see further decreases or increases of children living below the poverty level, said Charles Hokanson, a deputy assistant secretary in the department.
    But, he said, "It is pretty darn close to being the final number."
    Next week all districts will learn their specific amounts during a budget workshop in Albuquerque organized by the state Education Department.