ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico’s investment in K-12 education—which is crucial for communities to thrive and the state economy to offer broad opportunity—has declined dramatically in recent years. New Mexico cut its general school funding by nearly 14 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Although spending has been increased in more recent years, the report shows that New Mexico’s per-pupil spending is still 7 percent lower in fiscal year 2017 than it was in 2008, when adjusted for inflation. New Mexico is also one of 19 states that cut general aid for schools for the current fiscal year. New Mexico’s spending fell by 1.7 percent for fiscal year 2017. Only seven states made deeper cuts than New Mexico.
When legislators created the current year’s budget during the regular session in January they actually increased total K-12 spending by 0.2 percent. However, that increase was not enough to cover inflation and student population growth, which are about 3 percent combined. So, when adjusted for inflation and population growth, per-pupil spending amounted to a cut of almost 2 percent.
On top of that, legislators further cut per-pupil funding by 1.5 percent during the recent special session.
“The findings of this report are distressing enough, but when we include the spending cuts that were just enacted earlier this month, we’re seeing a steady downward trend,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners with the Center. “A well-educated workforce fosters economic growth and this report shows that New Mexico doesn’t measure up well against most other states. That is not going to attract business here.”
This erosion in support for K-12 education has damaging economic consequences for the state—both now and in the future. School cuts lead to larger class sizes, decreased learning time, and has exacerbated our teacher shortage. This could make it harder for the next generation of American workers to compete for highly skilled jobs in the global economy—depriving local businesses of a well-trained workforce and a strong customer base, as well as hurting struggling families and communities.
“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more—not less—so our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the report.
The Center’s report, After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States, looks strictly at per-pupil spending in order to draw accurate comparisons between the states.
The Center’s full report can be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/after-nearly-a-decade-school-investments-still-way-down-in-some-states
NOTE: In New Mexico, per-pupil funding refers to the money that flows through the state equalization guarantee (SEG), which is also referred to as “above the line” funding. New Mexico’s so-called “below the line” funding, along with capital outlay, is generally not included in per-pupil spending calculations because not all districts receive it. A report on New Mexico’s K-12 funding released by NM Voices in August looks at funding from all sources but does not compare New Mexico with other states.
About New Mexico Voices for Children
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. Its fiscal policy work is funded by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the WK Kellogg Foundation and the Working Poor Families Project. New Mexico Voices for Children is at 625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102. Call 505.244.9505 or visit www.nmvoices.org.