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Posted January 18, 2011

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APS 2011 Legislative Agenda Not Just About Funding

When the New Mexico Legislature convenes Tuesday, Jan. 18, for its 60-day session, the issue that will be on everyone’s mind will be the budget and how the state can adequately fund not only education, but also other state functions.

While the Albuquerque Public Schools will be focusing on making sure that New Mexico’s public schools receive sufficient funding and will advocate to ensure that the district has adequate resources to educate students in Albuquerque, there are a number of other items on the district’s legislative agenda. Some of these items address how we can make the best use of resources for students.

Unfunded Mandates

One of the items on the agenda that will help not only APS, but other school districts and students, is to oppose all new state-mandated education programs that do not come with a guarantee of support for those programs. As taxpayers we have all seen new, seemingly good ideas for improving education become additional burdens for schools when they are not adequately funded. So, while we don’t oppose new programs and ideas, we just want to make sure that the money is available so they can be implemented and really help students achieve at a higher level.

Medical Insurance

We expect government growth will also be a big focus during this session. One proposal is to move all medical insurance for public employees under one roof. Currently APS maintains its own insurance and gets lower rates. This would have a dramatic affect to APS staff and other public employees who work in Albuquerque. We benefit from being in an urban setting where the major hospitals are located and this keeps our medical insurance premiums lower. Creating another government entity to lump together all insurance for public employees does not make sense, nor will it save money.

Length of School Day

Another item on the district’s agenda that would help address funding is the repeal of legislation passed two years ago, but not implemented, that would require schools be in session 180 days with a minimum of 5 ½ hours of instruction at the primary level and 6 hours at middle and high schools. While the district fully supports adequate education time, I believe that schools and districts need the flexibility to set school days, especially given the current budget situation.

We support the current requirement that sets the number of instructional hours students at each level should receive. If a district believes and can demonstrate that it can provide adequate instruction during an 8-hour day, shortening the calendar and at the same time saving some operating costs, we believe they should be allowed to do so. Please understand that APS is not proposing such a schedule, we just want to make sure that local school boards have the flexibility they need to make the decisions they believe are best for the communities they serve.

Recovering Damages for Vandalism

We also believe that communities should be able to better protect their schools and will support legislation that would increase the amount of money a district can recover when someone is convicted of destroying school property. Currently the limit is $4,000, which in most cases barely covers legal fees. We want to raise the limit to $10,000 and to allow a judge to impose community service to cover the costs. We see property crimes on our campuses each year and it’s time you, the taxpayer, are able to prosecute.

License Plate Revenues

Finally, the district would like to see legislation passed that would allow school districts to generate new, much needed funds, while at the same time allow drivers to show school pride. We’d like to be able to get license plate revenue like the state’s colleges and universities currently do. Right now drivers can purchase a license plate that recognizes an institution of higher education, say UNM or NMSU, and when they do the colleges get $25 for each plate. We’d like for drivers to be able to get a license plate that recognizes their school district and have the school district get $25 to use to educate public school students.

We hope that APS constituents will support the legislation on the district’s agenda and contact their senator or representative to make sure that public education continues to receive the funding it needs to provide instruction for the next generation of leaders. For a full copy of the district’s legislative agenda or to provide input, visit http://www.aps.edu/about-us/legislative-affairs. You can check there for updates from the APS Government Affairs team throughout the session as well.

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