Char­ter school lead­ers blast ed­u­ca­tion bill

At is­sue is ter­mi­na­tion of small school size ad­just­ment

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO&NM - BY PI­LAR MARTINEZ JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Char­ter school sup­port­ers showed up to the Leg­is­la­ture in force Satur­day morn­ing to voice op­po­si­tion to a pro­vi­sion in a House bill that would ef­fec­tively elim­i­nate the small school size ad­just­ment char­ters cur­rently re­ceive.

House Bill 5, which was ap­proved by the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, aims to re­vamp the state ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and bring it into com­pli­ance with a land­mark court de­ci­sion that found the state was not pro­vid­ing a suf­fi­cient ed­u­ca­tion to some its high-risk stu­dents. House Bill 5 would, among other things, in­crease the min­i­mum salaries for teach­ers and prin­ci­pals, cre­ate a new fund­ing for­mula, and pro­hibit pub­lic schools from claim­ing fund­ing for stu­dents over 21 years of age. The bill does, how­ever, grand­fa­ther in older stu­dents cur­rently at­tend­ing pub­lic school.

But it was the pro­posal to elim­i­nate the small school size ad­just­ment for char­ters and schools in large dis­tricts that gar­nered the most crit­i­cism.

The ad­just­ment pro­vides more fund­ing to small schools.

“Re­mov­ing the small school size fund­ing will close our doors to our school,”said Mon­ica Aguilar, di­rec­tor of Mark Ar­mijo Academy in Al­bu­querque.

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The fear that elim­i­nat­ing the small school size ad­just­ment would crip­ple schools and even force some to close was echoed by char­ter school ed­u­ca­tors from around the state who trav­eled to the Round­house to speak against the pro­vi­sion.

Jade Rivera, founder of the Al­bu­querque Col­le­giate Char­ter School, said the fund­ing al­lowed her school to launch and is crit­i­cal to her school.

“With­out that fund­ing our school’s schol­ars would not have ac­cess to the model that we are able to pro­vide,” Rivera said.

“Small School Size ad­just­ment would have a tremen­dously detri­men­tal ef­fect on nu­mer­ous schools, fam­i­lies, and chil­dren across our state,” she added.

But leg­isla­tive staffers coun­tered that the small school size ad­just­ment was orig­i­nally only in­tended to go to schools from small dis­tricts, and not to char­ter schools.

Rachel Gudgel, di­rec­tor of the Leg­isla­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Study Com­mit­tee, said that small school size fund­ing was never in­tended for ur­ban or char­ter schools and that fund­ing’s pre­vi­ously go­ing to char­ter schools was the re­sult of a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion by the past two gover­nor’s ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Charles Sallee, deputy di­rec­tor of the Leg­isla­tive Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, de­fended the bill.

“This is an at­tempt to try to treat both char­ters and dis­tricts eq­ui­tably and limit school size ad­just­ment units to small ru­ral ar­eas of the state which tend to be in dis­tricts with less than 2,000 stu­dents,” Sallee said.

Prior to tak­ing pub­lic com­ment, the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee amended the bill to, among other things, bring it in line with a sim­i­lar Se­nate bill.

Changes made in­clude in­creas­ing teacher pay over the next four fis­cal years to bring the min­i­mum teacher salaries for Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 to $46,000, $56,000, and $66,000, re­spec­tively at that fourth fis­cal year.

The amended bill was passed by the com­mit­tee on a 9-2 vote and now heads to the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tion and Fi­nance Com­mit­tee for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Law­mak­ers have been con­sid­er­ing a host of ed­u­ca­tion re­forms this year.

Last July, state District Judge Sarah Sin­gle­ton ruled that New Mex­ico is vi­o­lat­ing the rights of at-risk stu­dents — in­clud­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans, English-lan­guage learn­ers and those from low-in­come fam­i­lies — by fail­ing to pro­vide them with a suf­fi­cient ed­u­ca­tion.

The judge’s land­mark de­ci­sion gave the state, the Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment and the Leg­is­la­ture un­til April 15 to take steps to en­sure that New Mex­ico schools have re­sources needed to pro­vide a suf­fi­cient ed­u­ca­tion.

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