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Superintendent's News

Posted: January 15, 2021

2021 Legislative Agenda

Supt. Elder outlines for areas of focus: budget, student achievement, equity, and workforce.

I have a lot of respect for our state legislators, who will be spending the next couple of months enacting laws and developing budgets that support New Mexico's citizenry, including the students in our care and the employees in their service.

Our Government Affairs team will be advocating on behalf of the Albuquerque Public Schools community during the legislative session that begins on Tuesday, January 19, and wraps up on March 20. They will focus primarily on four categories: budget, student achievement, equity, and workforce. 

BUDGET 

Figuring out the budget for the coming school year will be tricky for many reasons, not the least of which is the pandemic. As you probably know, public education is funded in large part through a formula based on enrollment. APS, which taught about 80,000 students and employed around 13,000 individuals when the virus closed school buildings, has since seen an enrollment decline of approximately 5,000 students. We expect many of these students to return when school gets back to normal. If that happens, but we are funded traditionally, APS could face a $35 million budget shortfall next year. That would be a devastating blow.

We are imploring lawmakers to adequately fund APS and school districts across the state so we can open our doors next fall with staff, supplies, and programs in place to meet our students' educational needs. The same goes for transportation, which could lose $10 million if funded as it has been in the past.  

Opening schools, whether in a hybrid model if we are still dealing with the virus or more traditionally requires a financial investment from the state. Inadequate school funding undermines school safety and student wellness and success.  

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT 

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about extending the school year in hopes that more time in the classroom will improve student achievement. You may recall that during the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers funded two programs that add more days to the school calendar – K-5+ for elementary school students in the summer and the Extended Learning Time Program, which adds 10 days to the school year.

While many of our families have largely opposed extending the school year, we recognize that students may need more time in the classroom, especially as we heal from the pandemic. So, we are asking legislators for the flexibility to add time through hours as well as days to embed instructional programs that inspire, innovate, enrich, and accelerate learning.

EQUITY 

Of course, at the core of our educational mission is equity for all students. You probably are familiar with the Yazzie/Martinez court decision that requires the state to provide a sufficient education to all public school students, especially those historically underserved, including Native students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities.

While the pandemic didn't create these inequities, it magnified them and made us realize we can't simply return to "normal." Instead, we need to provide more opportunities for career technical education and college-ready programs. We need to connect students to curriculum, including culturally and linguistically responsive materials. We need universal broadband access. We need to identify class size inequities to ensure that students who need the most support get it in smaller, more personal environments. 

WORKFORCE

The nation is facing a teacher and school staff shortage, and we want to keep our talented employees while attracting a new generation of qualified and enthusiastic professionals. We can do this through teacher residencies, high school programs, mentorships, and training, including professional development that helps us address systematic racism as well as our own personal biases. We also want to minimize what seems like ever-increasing insurance and benefits costs.

It's an ambitious agenda, but our students and staff deserve nothing less.

Our Government Affairs team is open to questions, concerns, and suggestions. They are hosting virtual office hours during the week. I encourage those who are interested to reach out to them.

I want to take a minute to thank our state representatives who are working on our behalf and for the good of our students, families, and communities. We appreciate all they do.