On behalf of the NMCEL/NMSSA membership, let me wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and Happy Holidays! As we take measure of this last year – 2020 – we recognize all of the unique challenges that you, our New Mexico education family, have faced from spring through year-end. We look forward to continuing our work with you and our efforts of supporting you as we move together into 2021.
We recognize that we are still heavily impacted by the challenges of COVID-19 and the state’s budget for public schools. The continuing challenge to provide our students the best public education possible remains our joint goal. Our trajectory and limitations are still heavily dictated by the Governor’s Health Order and is directed and informed largely by decisions made under the direction of the Medical Advisory Team and the Governor. We have continued to do our best at suggesting “on the ground” recommendations through the Secretary of Education that would hopefully provide a defined trajectory towards full face-to-face instruction as determined by the local districts. We have fully supported the need to have each public school community determine the best trajectory of service as we toil through the challenges of the pandemic.
Among the challenges that face us is the volatility of student enrollment that has occurred this year. We have seen a significant instability in student enrollment and engagement this year and have championed the recognition of this volatility in all areas of policy and planning. For instance, as the State Equalization Guarantee (SEG) funding levels are being established through the FY22 Appropriations Act, we are proposing that the Legislature assure funding stability during this time of such enrollment volatility. We argue that we must retain current staffing levels and assure that no unfunded mandates are adopted by the Legislature. We have argued that utilization of historical enrollment data may be a methodology that can help size district budgets. Some districts have grown in enrollment and that increase must also be recognized. At the end of the day, we must assure solvency measures for every district. Assuring that SEG is not reduced is a critical part of district stability.
Our students have experienced many challenges in their educational experience since mid-March 2020 and continues throughout this school year. The challenges have included disparities of access to sufficient broadband infrastructure as well as broadband access. Our public schools have made significant efforts to bridge the digital gap, but it is still likely that almost a quarter of our students remain unable to participate in digital learning. As an organization, we continue to insist that we focus on this statewide equity issue.
Our New Mexico Activities Association Board has continued to address the landscape of athletics for 2020-21 and has made numerous adjustments for competitive seasons and practices. It is likely that this will continue to be a significant area of continued concern as we move into the spring. From this chair, it appears that the likelihood of fall and winter sports seasons became much less viable. We thank Director Sally Marquez and the NMAA Board for their continued efforts at assuring our student athletes have hope and opportunity.
Finally, the New Mexico State Legislature will begin meeting in mid-January; as of this writing, we are not sure whether it will be conducted in person, via hybrid, or on a remote basis. The need to continue informing and supporting each of our area legislators will likely require each of you to become even more active to assure these critical connections. Stay tuned and stay involved.