The New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders, Superintendents across the state and Dist. 43 Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard are working overtime to avoid significant cuts to education during the Special Legislative Session underway in Santa Fe.
Gov. Susana Martinez called the Legislature into Special Session Friday, Sept. 30 to address a $500 million projected budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. Early in September, she ordered every government department to cut spending by 5 percent resulting in some cost savings but not enough to close the gap. Last week, Legislators were asked to convene to pass legislation to fix the budget deficit, as well as a handful of crime bills put on the call by the Governor.
Although the Senate and House leadership touted the need for a budget not balanced on the backs of New Mexico’s kids, every bill included significant cuts to education. Superintendents from around the state joined together last week to minimize the cuts to our schools while understanding every department was experiencing similar hardships.
Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos), the legislator who represents Los Alamos Public Schools and is employed by Pojoaque Public Schools, joined local school efforts to minimize negative impacts to the classroom. Before the special session started last week, she sat in on a telephone conference with superintendents from across the state. A solution was adopted between school leadership and legislative leadership to reduce cuts to schools operating budgets by reducing school cash balances, or their reserves to avoid big cuts to their day to day operating budgets.
In communications from LAPS Superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus to school board members and district staff, Dr. Steinhaus noted that Garcia Richard had “gone to bat for the LAPS students and staff to minimize cuts”.
New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders Executive Director Stan Rounds also noted in a message to superintendents that, “It is necessary that we reach out and find solutions that address solvency for New Mexico and our schools.”
Garcia Richard also is supporting efforts to lessen the impact of cuts on schools by using legislative pension fund balances to shore up the state budget and crossing the aisle to move cut funding back to schools.
“As a teacher in 2009, I experienced the devastating cuts to the classroom. I’ve seen the harm these cuts do to schools and students, so now that I have a voice in the state legislature I will not let that happen to our schools again,” Garcia Richard said. “School districts have stepped up to the plate to give their opinion on how to close the budget gap and I am working to make sure the cuts do not impact our students’ ability to learn.”