Even with the small increases made over the past two years, New Mexico is still way behind in providing the funding necessary to build a world-class school system
By Pamela L. Bonner, Ruidoso News
Mar. 12, 2019
New Mexico is one of many states that have failed to increase per-student funding compared to a decade ago, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
There are 26 states that have made larger investments in K-12 students since 2008, per-student funding in New Mexico remained at nine percent less in 2016 than in 2008, after considering inflation.
The report found that New Mexico ranks 33rd in per-pupil funding, after adjusting for the cost of living, poverty, and several other factors that compared the national funding levels after adjusting for various degrees with the following factors:
- Wages across the state
- Poverty in areas (both urban and rural areas)
- Population density (the number of people living in a kilometer square)
- It is more expensive to bus kids in big, sparsely populated states than in dense urban ones
“Even with the small increases made over the past two years, we’re still way behind in providing the funding necessary to build a world-class school system,” said executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children James Jimenez. “We’ve not properly funded our schools or adequately paid our teachers in more than a decade, as is evident by the judge’s ruling in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit,” he said.
In a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) and the state Legislature for failing to provide a ‘sufficient and uniform system’ of education to all New Mexican students as guaranteed by the education clause of the New Mexico State Constitution.
Families and schools were represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, according to New Mexico Voices for Children.
Highlighted in the report, shows that teacher pay in only nine states has increased above the 2009-10 pay scales even when adjusted for the cost of living and inflation factors were incorporated.
Teachers pay vs. inflation
In New Mexico, teacher pay remained 8.3 percent lower than pre-recession levels of 2016-17, (2016 is the latest year for which comprehensive data on total state/local funding are available according to the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities).
“The effects of state funding cuts are evident in teacher pay,” said CBPP Senior Director of State Fiscal Research Michael Leachman.
“Some 42 states – including New Mexico – cut the average teacher’s salary relative to inflation between 2010 and 2017. That is why teacher protests emerged in many states recently.”
Taking a stand
The report noted, additionally, that three of the states that raised pay in response to teacher strikes, failed to do so in a sustainable manner over the long-term – meaning these states will either need to find other ways to fund higher pay or make cuts. The strikes were held in Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Resulting from the teacher’s striking throughout theses states, funding was given to the schools. Twelve states had cut teacher’s funding resulting in multiple districts striking, according to CBPP.
“Having sustainable revenue is a huge issue for New Mexico,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been on the boom-and-bust cycle of oil and gas prices for the past 15 years and it’s time to break that cycle. The time to do it is now rather than waiting until oil prices drop again.”
Adequate school funding can improve student outcomes and strengthen state economies, while steep funding cuts make it hard for states to improve teacher quality, reduce class sizes, extend learning time, and enact other reforms that can improve student outcomes, according to the report.
New Mexico’s Legislature is currently considering several ways to find new revenue, including closing a loophole from out-of-state corporations allowing these companies to avoid paying taxes on New Mexico profits.
The lawsuit, Martínez/Yazzie v. State of New Mexico, challenged the state’s failure to provide students – especially low-income, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities – the programs and services necessary for them to receive a quality education.
It has been stated that because of the state’s failure to sufficiently fund these programs and services, children across the state of New Mexico are losing out on the education that they deserve, according the University of New Mexico.
On July 20, 2018, Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that “all New Mexico students have a right to be college and career ready – the state is failing to meet this obligation.” As evidence, the judge pointed to New Mexico’s low graduation rate which is 70 percent and the lowest in the nation.
Proficiency rates are low and there are many students that are unable to read or do math at ‘grade level,’ and ‘high rates of college remediation’ (almost 50 percent of those who attend college need remedial courses).
Judge Singleton’s ruling found that the state has failed to comply with state and federal laws regarding the education of students of color and ELL students, including the New Mexico Hispanic and Indian Education Acts, and Bilingual Multicultural Education Act, which resulted in an “inadequate education system for New Mexican students.”
Students in New Mexico are far behind those in many other states and teachers have begun to place their jobs on the line to see change and progress made.
The report by the CBPP can be found at https://bit.ly/2C9sBNa.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities, and is located in Albuquerque.
For more information about NM Voices for Children and children living in New Mexico, go to www.nmvoices.org.
Pamela L. Bonner can be reached at 575-202-5555, Pbonner@Ruidosonews.com or at 575-257-4001 ext. 4102.
Copyright 2019, Ruidoso News (https://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/education/2019/03/12/new-mexico-schools-rank-33rd-per-pupil-funding/3134158002/)