By now, most of you have completed this year’s testing and the anxious waiting begins to see how well students performed. I’ve heard, anecdotally, from many district and school administrators that they were surprised at how well students did, process wise, in taking their online assessments. More surprising was how well the infrastructure fared during this initial run. Of course, not every grade or school conducted the online assessment so the concern remains regarding whether New Mexico will be ready for the full scale online assessment in the 2014-15 school year.
At the spring budget conference this past week, districts learned that the Unit Value for the 2014-15 school year is $4005.75. The increase, which is the most districts have seen since 2008, will go a long way in providing much needed revenue to meet district needs. NMCEL and NMSSA worked diligently during this past legislative session to help people understand the difference between above the line and below the line funding. Most people assume that the entire legislative-approved allocation/education funding goes directly to districts. It’s important to remind everyone, including legislators, that only those funds above the line or the SEG (the State Equalization Guarantee) comes to the districts and is then controlled by the School Board and the Superintendent. The rest of the funds (below the line) are under the control of the Secretary and the PED, and although most districts are eligible for many of these funds/programs, they must apply for and be approved to receive the money. Most of the funding above the line—in many districts 85% or more—goes to salaries and benefits for all employees–teachers, support staff, custodians, maintenance, clerical, administrative, etc. The remainder is what must be used for all other expenses. Districts are deep in the throes of budget planning and development, which includes community meetings to share the budget process and to obtain community input. It’s been my experience that when the community is involved and knowledgeable about the district’s budget, they are better able to understand the district’s limitations and scarce resources. In fact, most community members, especially business people, find it hard to believe that districts function as efficiently as they do with their limited resources.
Meanwhile, everyone understands that public school funding is public funding and the public has a right to know where every penny goes and to expect a good return on their investment. For that reason, although administrators and teachers may question reform issues, and may express their concern and their disagreement with the process, they are always interested in doing all they can to improve the teaching and learning process. The main concern in these times of great change is that if we are doing too much too quickly, can we achieve the results we’re all hoping for?
The recent lauding of increases in graduation, the increase in the number of Hispanic students taking AP courses and the slight narrowing of the achievement gap did not happen in one or two years. The programs, interventions and increase in expectations have occurred over a number of years, and we are just beginning to see the fruits of those labors. The current denigration of public school employees will not serve to increase motivation and confidence but instead will do the opposite—drive out those good folks who are unable to do their jobs while also staving off such negativity. Let’s remember that the positive results we are beginning to see in our schools are the product of the work of the people who are currently or were in our schools in the recent past. Let’s do our best to keep our excellent teachers and administrators and use our resources to help others to improve and achieve their best. Our students in New Mexico deserve no less.
Best wishes for a restful Spring Break.
Gloria O. Rendón
NMCEL Executive Director
At our summer conference the NMCEL Board elected a new President, Crit Caton, Superintendent from Artesia. Erik Bose, APS Principal was elected Vice President.
With over half of the school year completed, I hope this letter finds all of you experiencing a wonderful school year. The New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders truly appreciates your dedication to the students of this great state. A big thank you goes out to all who helped promote our Legislative Platform. Four of the five platform areas were addressed by the Legislature this year. I believe the education budget is the best it has been in the past four or five years!
Thank you for your tireless efforts and hope the remainder of your school year is successful. I appreciate you all for truly “Keeping Kids First”.
Crit D. Caton, Ed.D.