SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) is requesting a near-flat $3.3 billion budget for public schools in the next fiscal year while rolling out plans to increase the share going to schools with the greatest need.
“Equity is at the heart of this budget request,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We’re getting additional money to the kids who need it most while giving districts the flexibility to determine at a local level what their students need.”
Stewart presented the Public School Support budget request to the Legislative Finance Committee Wednesday.
The request includes:
- $3.17 billion for the State Equalization Guarantee, the funding formula used to distribute money to the state’s 89 school districts;
- $162 million in funding restricted for specific uses including, for example, transportation, instructional materials and supports for Native American education.
Stewart also is seeking a one-time appropriation of $56 million from unspent education reform funds — money originally set aside to pay for school reforms like K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time. If approved by the legislature, that money will be distributed over two years through a new Family Income Index, which will use state tax data to direct support to schools that serve students who are the most economically disadvantaged.
“Current support at the district level will continue, but the new index will allow us to get another $56 million directly to the schools serving lower-income families,” Stewart said.
“We’re looking to better identify the students who need the most support,” said Timothy Hand, deputy secretary for Policy, Strategy and Accountability.
The K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time programs, which add hours or days to the academic calendar, were developed to improve academic outcomes for New Mexico children.
To date, only 13 districts and two charter schools have opted into K-5 Plus while 79 districts and charter schools offer Extended Learning Time. As an incentive for more districts to opt in, the agency will ask the legislature to provide access to additional funds for community school grants and career and technical education programs for districts that opt into these extended learning opportunities.
Stewart also proposed tapping the Public Education Reform Fund for $95 million to support pandemic remediation efforts including:
- Counselors and advisors for secondary students on a 1:100 ratio to review transcripts and gather data for targeted credit recovery programs and supports;
- Additional instructional hours for K-2 students, juniors and seniors to remediate lost learning time;
- Transportation services for additional instructional hours;
- Salary matching for work-based learning and paid internships for high school juniors and seniors;
- Two statewide professional development days to help teachers learn accelerated instructional methods;
- Other supportive efforts, including funding to implement the Multi-Layered System of Support, the connective tissue of remediation efforts based on academic and behavior interventions for students.
The budget proposal also includes providing full state funding to districts that receive federal impact aid payments — funding from the federal government used in part to support the education of Native American students. In the past, the state took credit for a percentage of a district’s impact aid and reduced state funding accordingly.
“We’ve heard from our Native American communities how important this funding is to their students, and we want to be responsive to those needs in the upcoming session while ensuring funding for other districts is held harmless,” Hand said.