Welcome to a “new world” of public education in New Mexico! Since our last newsletter, our world of public education has experienced a tremendous shift. Active learning “at school” is ended for the 2019-20 school year and our expectation is to assure active learning “from school” as our new motif. Wow! The COVID-19 reverberation is dramatic, taxing, and transformational to our day-to-day routines and those routines of our students. Added to this is the very tenuous nature of our state budget created by a “perfect storm” of the significant drop in the oil and gas market (about 45% of our state budget) and the chilling of commerce and travel precipitated by COVID-19 (significantly adding to the oil and gas impacts but also the NM Gross Receipts Tax income). And through all this, you, as our educational leaders in New Mexico, are confronted with designing and implementing a delivery system that only “hiccups” in this reality.
Now, more than ever, your leadership and grit is called upon like probably no other time in your career. And I know you are up to it!! We are “New Mexico Strong” and we are resolute and capable in figuring this out, both short- and long-term. As you move through these historic times, the following are points of information and challenge for you to consider:
· By Decree of the Governor to deal with the threat of COVID-19, all New Mexico Public Schools will cease regular school functions for the remainder of the 19-20 school year.
· Schools will increase their efforts to assure that no student goes hungry and the “essential workers” necessary to serve breakfast and lunches on a “grab and go basis” will work and provide those services.
· NM Public Schools are to be considered essential service providers for the remainder of the decree and will practice “social distancing” as they perform those essential services.
· NM Public Schools will continue to provide educational opportunities for all New Mexico students and will arrange for a process of “remote learning.”
· The Federal CARES Act is now in play in all states and is likely to bring around $120 million in additional resources to the state educational community. We are awaiting the specifics in the implementation of that Act.
· Each district in New Mexico will continue to design and implement budgets that comply with the provisions of the General Appropriations Act for FY ‘21. However, there is a likelihood that over the next two years the General Fund income for the State of New Mexico will diminish significantly for FY ‘21 and FY ’22. This will likely create necessary downscaling of the budgets being prepared and submitted for the upcoming school year and will likely be directed, in part, through a Special Session of the State Legislature held sometime this summer.
This perfect storm of events sets up many scenarios to be considered by each educational leader in New Mexico. When added to the court-mandated efforts to meet Yazzie/Martinez in district instructional plans and support at-risk and extended learning strategies, this presents formidable pressure on each of you.
We at NMCEL/NMSSA are full partners with you as you traverse these choppy waters and are working at the state and national level to help resolve public policy issues and to be a thought partner with you and our state leadership as we define our strategies. We hold high value in local flexibility and local budget control as part of our guiding principles. We support the retention of cash balances by local districts and support local efforts to design “right-fitting” program design elements that can be afforded and implemented to benefit student learning. We believe that the best decisions are made closest to the student (school and district level). But, most of all, we are here to reach out and support your active struggle in these unprecedented times.
We are New Mexico Strong!
Stan Rounds, Executive Director
New Mexico Coalition of Educational School Leaders