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Posted: June 16, 2020

A Letter to NM Legislators on the Session that Begins Thursday, June 18

From Superintendent Raquel Reedy, Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder and Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman.

June 16, 2020 

Dear Legislators:

Albuquerque Public Schools, like school districts across New Mexico, expected great things in the 2020-2021 school year thanks in large part to the support of the state legislature and administration. We looked forward to implementing new and expanded programs that would improve outcomes for at-risk students, add instructional time to the school year, extend early childhood learning, and pay teachers a more competitive wage.

Now, because of an unforeseen contagious virus, we not only see these programs slipping away, but we face costs and demands that far exceed our normal operating budget. We never dreamed that we would be budgeting for staggered school days, face masks and thermometers, additional cleaning and sanitation, online learning, home computers, and internet connectivity. 

As you head into this extraordinary Special Session, please keep in mind the many unplanned expenses the state's school districts have already shouldered due to the pandemic as well as the extraordinary cost of safely opening and operating schools in the coming school year. APS has already spent about $7.3 million on COVID-related expenses. We anticipate paying as much as $12 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the coming school year, and another $11 million for online learning devices and support. 

The federal CARES Act can help Albuquerque Public Schools pay for virus-related safety measures, student support, and adjusted teaching and learning. These federal dollars should not go to fill shortfalls in operational costs, as proposed by the Legislative Finance Committee. Instead, SEG funding should be preserved for school operations.

The LFC reported that New Mexico's students suffered learning loss when schools closed last spring, and they will continue to struggle academically until they can return to school. APS recognizes the benefits of educating students in person and is working on a reentry plan that safely returns students to the classroom. Because many unknowns come with opening schools during a pandemic, the district also is planning for distance learning or perhaps a combination of school and online instruction. If schools are underfunded, however, APS will struggle to provide students with a safe environment for learning, no matter which instructional model it implements. 

Education is a state-mandated, constitutional right in New Mexico. Albuquerque Public Schools unequivocally wants students to return to school for high-quality instruction. We believe in our responsibility to educate students and implement programs that care for all our students, especially at-risk students and those identified in Yazzie/Martinez. Please preserve the SEG funding for school operations from the 2020 session.