You make a difference! Every district in New Mexico is holding some form of graduation for their students. What a wonderful time to recognize what we are about in New Mexico Public Schools. Even under the most unusual sets of circumstances that any of us have experienced (COVID-19) we have persevered to assure that our students finished out the year. Congratulations!!!
As we prepare for the new year several significant considerations have become necessary as we enter Summer 2020. First, the New Mexico Public Education Department has decided to allow districts to finish Extended Learning 19 (if in the district CLP) to complete activities for the 2019-2020 school year. But, because of the cadence of social distancing required under the state’s Health Order, PED indicated that K-5+ will not have enough time to operate under the 25-day requirement and the cohort requisite in statute. With July 1 looming as the target start date, it became apparent that districts simply could not meet both requirements and so PED decided to deactivate the Summer 2020 K-5+ program. In a clarifying memo, the Secretary recently indicated that the ELTP plans that districts have for the 2020-21 school year will be allowed. These two decisions will have impacts on a number of districts.
Oil and gas revenues are slowly climbing back. While it is unlikely to reach the $52 level for oil, it is of note that oil has rebounded to the $35+ range. It is important to note that the rig count continues to fall which is an indicator that the near future will see oil and gas receipts suppressed. So, the Governor has announced that there will be a Special Legislative Session beginning June 18. It is expected that the Session will be brief.
Good news seems to be emerging with likely actions to include use of the reserves set aside by the Legislature of 2020 and the relief of about $1.3 billion from the Fed to the state for COVID impact. We will have to await the actions of the legislature as they grapple with balancing the state budget. It is likely that there will be reductions in funding for public schools. The PED has stated that districts will not be required to submit new budgets, but rather utilize BARs to make adjustments after the special session actions are signed by the Governor. Additional good news is that it is unlikely that district cash balances will be part of the special session actions. I do expect that the Education Reform Fund might be reduced and that there may be some consideration of reducing salary increases (but likely, still have increases to assure take- home pay is kept at least level).
Finally, the NMCEL Board has asked that we retool the 2020 NMCEL Summer Conference to be either a “blended” or “virtual” conference and target the reopening issues likely faced by districts. With the blended model, we would have some people in attendance and some online. In the “virtual model” we would have all of the conference virtually, somewhat like the Budget Conference was delivered. Like you, we have been in suspense as the Governor determines what social distancing requirements will be in place, at which given time.
This is, of course, the same issues we are facing for school start-up in August. We are awaiting work of the “School Re-entry Task Force” which is advising the Secretary and his team on how schools might reopen in the fall. We will be sharing online updates as we become aware of decisions made regarding the start-up of the 2020-21 School Year.