First, a time of reflection and support. Since our last Straight Talk members of our “family” have suffered loss. Superintendent Kirk Carpenter’s wife Teresa has lost her health battle and has passed. Secondly, Business Manager for NMCEL/NMSSA, Jo Lynn Gallegos, has suffered a second recent loss (losing her son earlier this fall) as her mother was lost to a head injury resulting in death. And, a note of the loss of Superintendent LeeAnn Gandy’s son earlier this fall, also. We ask that you keep all three families in your prayers. At this time of joy and anticipation I ask that you remember the impact that losses such as these have on each of these “family members.”
We at NMCEL/NMSSA wish each of you and your families the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years. We pause and pray for your peace and joy.
As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session — a 30-day session beginning in late January — we have worked hard organizationally to reach meaningful recommendations for the Legislature to consider. A 30-day session is focused primarily on funding issues and, therefore, has been largely our focus. Emerging for our consideration are significant issues that have arisen after the unprecedented funding increase (some 16%) that came from the Legislature 2019. Among those of significance are K-5+ and Extended Learning Time (ELT); staying competitive in the recruitment and retention of teachers and other educational personnel; the IRS Rules and other impacts that have impacted the substitute pool for every district in New Mexico; maintaining “safe school” environment and dealing with capital outlay needs of districts; resolving the issues of credit taking and funding relative to Impact Aide; focusing on creating equity of opportunity for students, especially in the area of CTE (Career and Technical Education); and providing student support for and refining the services for students who have characteristics placing them at risk.
We have developed a draft platform that finally will be considered at this month’s board meetings for both the NMSSA and the NMCEL. We want to recognize the leadership of Superintendent Dennis Roch and the various superintendents and NMCEL Board members that have contributed to this conclusion.
The following are the recommendations of our Legislative Platform:
1. Adequate/Stable Funding to Support Profile of a New Mexico Graduate
a. Ensure sustainable funding is provided to cover current salaries and any future increases to ensure that districts can be regionally competitive.
b. Provide state funding to both expand CTE opportunities and enhance existing programs with the local flexibility to allocate funding for facilities, materials, and/or staffing, and consider adding a CTE multiplier to the SEG (0.25).
c. Allow local districts to determine which course sequence will satisfy each individual student’s requirement to successfully pass four years of math and revise 22-13-1,1(J)2 to codify this change.
d. Review and modify the school transportation formula to address systemic shortfalls in district budgets.
e. If credits are changed, all districts must permanently be held harmless from any SEG reduction.
2. Improve educator recruitment and retention
a. Create a new tax credit (modeled after the Rural Health Care Practitioner Tax Credit) to incentivize licensed educators to consider serving in rural/or tribal schools.
b. Increase the ERB pension multiplier to achieve consistency of retirement benefits between ERB and PERA.
c. Support improving the solvency of the NM Retiree Health Care Fund through actions including the restoration of swept funds and the increasing of employee and employer contributions into the fund.
3. Maintain a “Safe School” environment that values all students
a. Support and fund cybersecurity audits and infrastructure improvements to safeguard student data and district network capabilities.
b. Support a substantive increase in the guaranteed SB-9 match.
c. Raise/expand adequacy standards and re-establish a Deficiency Corrections Unit at PSFA to address conditions below these revised standards.
4. Create an equity of opportunity
a. Foster growth in CTE coursework and programs to prepare students for careers beyond high school by funding CTSO staff and infrastructure, as well as by extending flexibility on credentialing requirements.
5. Reconsider use of “at-risk” and the services provided to eligible students
a. Request specific formula/categorical funding to increase student access to ancillary service providers.
Those items in Bold represent the compromise agreements reached regarding the Impact Aide question. We were unable to resolve a number of the particular issue but have agreed on each of these items.
We have met with LFC staff, LESC staff, the Secretary of Education and the PED staff as well as the Education Partners in attempting to reach consensus on each of these major issues and we are experiencing a close alignment with the PED recommendation.
Together we can move the needs of each of our districts and, therefore, our children with a close collaboration and pulling together as we enter this session.