With another legislative session behind us, we can take a quick look in the rear view mirror and see that education fared much better this year than it has in the past several years. For the first time ever, I believe, three organizations—The NM Coalition of Educational Leaders, the NM School Superintendents Association and the NM School Boards Association, came together with the one legislative platform. As you may recall, there were five main points on our platform: increase the amount of funding for education, place the majority of new funds above the line, invest in our human capital, fund the micro districts and increase the amount of funding from the Land Grant Permanent fund.
From the first week of the session, it was clear that Superintendents’ voices had been heard. The initial education budget known as House Bill 3 included a 6.2% increase in above the line funding for districts. Our legislators fought hard to maintain that funding and the final increase is at about 5.7%. The compensation line item amounts remained intact throughout the session’s negotiations and include funding for an average 3% increase for all employees; an additional 3% increase for Educational Assistants and funding to increase the base amount for each of the Tier levels. The bill containing language to mandate Tier increases did not make it through the process, however, the funds remain in the budget.
Below the line items include funding for Instructional Materials ($20 million), Reading Proficiency ($14.4 million), Interventions for students, schools and parents ($10.4 million), and funding for Pre-K and K-3+ (about $40 million) among others.
In addition, other important pieces of legislation did pass both Chambers and currently lie on the Governor’s desk. HB 19 (Rep. Varela) provided additional funding ($15.2 million) for at-risk students and identified programs that can be funded with the additional dollars. HB 35 (Rep. Hall) provides funding for the micro-districts–districts with 200 mem or less. This additional funding will allow some districts to finally get out from under emergency supplemental funding and provide more flexibility in developing and expending their budget. HB 280 (Rep. Stewart) provides funding so districts can begin working toward reinstituting statutory class sizes. Districts will submit plans for achieving class size requirements within three years.
Other important bills include SB 122 (Sen. Brandt) and SB 307 (Sen. Cervantes) both of which provide language to fix the recent PE issue, meaning that courses such as Marching Band, ROTC and Athletics courses can count for the PE credit. SB 307 also allows districts to develop a PE course for approval by the PED and prohibits changes to a student’s graduation plan once the Next Steps Plan is in place. Both bills include an emergency clause meaning they will take effect immediately.
All in all, education was treated fairly during this past session. Legislators really listened to educators and administrators. Superintendents did a great job of representing all districts and maintaining the focus on our legislative platform.
Finally, I believe that the biggest surprises came after the legislative session ended. The biggest one is the announcement that, along with several other State representatives, Majority Leader Rep. Rick Miera will not seek re-election. Rep. Miera has been a strong advocate of New Mexico’s public schools and is the longest serving chair of the House Education Committee. His retirement, along with the vacancies left by other long-tenured legislators, will leave a huge leadership void in the legislature. We definitely will miss their support and their institutional knowledge. However, several of them have mentioned that it’s time to pass the torch and make room for the next generation of leaders. Let’s hope this new generation of leaders continues to look to the “old guard” for wisdom and advice. Our organizations stand ready to support and assist our new leaders as they begin to shape policy for the next generation of New Mexico’s public school students
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.