Errors and Omissions in Journal Editorial

On Thursday, April 20, the Albuquerque Journal ran an editorial about the APS budget and mid-school sports that we felt needed some correcting.

We contacted Journal editors to point out some errors and omissions in their editorial. The Journal didn't feel that our concerns warranted a correction in the newspaper (with one exception), so we are sharing them here (along with the Journal's counter argument).

Read the editorial in its entirety.

1. The editorial mentions a "planned unnecessary employee health center that will cost an estimated $4 million a year to run."

There is no funding in the 2017-18 budget for an employee health care center.

2. The editorial says the district has a $94 million reserve fund.

This isn't true. Our working cash balance, or reserve, on June 30, 2016, was $57.9 million. We are projecting a working cash balance, or reserve, of $46.3 million on June 30, 2017. This decrease is mostly due to using part of our working cash balance, or reserve, to absorb some of the budget cuts handed down in this current fiscal year – $6.65 million – and by budgeting another $5 million of our working cash balance, or reserve, to help offset some of the budget cuts looming for next fiscal year.

3. The editorial says we're targeting "intermurals."

This is semantics, so we want to clarify. Right now, it doesn't look like we have enough funding for competitive, traveling teams that students have to try out for. We are planning to keep PE, intramurals and programs that are funded by grants such as flag football, lunchtime basketball, archery, tennis and soccer. And our Athletics Department is working with coaches and schools to find additional ways to provide athletic opportunities for our students (the superintendent mentioned this at the board meeting Wednesday).

4. The editorial states that: “No other district has gone there” – referring to cutting sports.

Other school districts, including Rio Rancho, have talked about possibly having to cut athletics. Here's a story from Channel 7 (the Journal's broadcast partner) that mentions this.

Districts across the state are considering other drastic measures to deal with projected budget shortfalls, from closing schools in Santa Fe to going to a four-day school week in Loving.

5. The editorial mentions the 2015 APS graduation rate of 61.7%.

What it fails to note is that our graduation rate increased by 4 percentage points in 2016 to 66%.

6. The editorial points out that our graduation rate is lower than the state's.

It doesn't point out that our reading and math proficiency rates are actually slightly higher than the state average.

Here are the Journal editor's responses to our concerns:

1. "The editorial did not say the health center is in the 2017-18 but that it was planned."

2. "The $94 million reserve number came from the Governor's Office, which said while the district may not consider everything in that figure as reserves, auditors would."

3. "We specifically listed the sports being cut: volleyball, basketball and track and field. We called them intermural, which means between institutions, not intramural."

4. "No other district has cut middle school sports. That others might consider doing so sometime in the future does not change that no other district has cut them."

5. "We did not access the 2016 grad rate on deadline, but it is still below the 2013 rate as well as the state's and Rio Rancho's."

6. "We did use the most current proficiency rates for the district, which show less than one-third of APS students can read or do math at grade level. However, the 2016 rate does show an improvement, and we should have included it. We can run a clarification of that point, if you would like."

The Journal also suggested we submit an op-ed piece addressing budget issues. We've opted instead to communicate directly with our constituents through our website, social media sites, and letters from our superintendent and Budget Steering Committee.