Near the end of his announcement for mayor last weekend, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis took a shot at the city’s public school district, saying it needed “radical repair.”
“I believe now is the time to deconstruct this large unaccountable school district and replace it with smaller, more accountable school districts,” Lewis said at the business incubator ABQ Fat Pipe, which is located in the old Albuquerque High School building. “As your mayor, what I’ll do is lead the charge to fundamentally change education in our city.”
With more than 95,000 students in the school system, APS ranks as the 31st largest public school district in the nation—outsizing the public school systems in bigger cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Lewis is making the idea of breaking up the school district a part of his mayoral platform. To do so requires action from the state legislature. State Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, could be the lawmaker that takes on the issue this legislative session, which starts next week.
Among the many cuts in this year’s coming state budget signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez are $300,000 for school-based health clinics. As NM Political Report wrote earlier this week, the 53 health clinics in public schools across the state funded by the state Department of Health were facing the cuts in the upcoming budget, which Martinez signed into law on Tuesday. The clinics, which are located on school grounds, offer free health care on the spot for children and adolescents, who in New Mexico statistically tend not to receive care. As governor, Martinez has the authority to line-item veto items in the budget, including the $300,000 of cuts to school-based clinics. But when she signed the budget on Tuesday, she left in the cuts to clinics, which while comparatively small compared to other cuts in the budget are still enough to completely shut off state funding for six school-based health clinics.
Monique Vallabhan, a certified nurse practitioner, recalls recently treating a student with a headache referred to her by the school nurse at one of Albuquerque’s largest public schools. The student left class to get ibuprofen from the school nurse, which Vallabhan prompted her to conduct a brief checkup. It turns his headache came after his dad kicked him in the head. Vallabhan connected him with the school health clinic’s resources, which includes a psychiatrist and a behavioral health therapist. “If he just took ibuprofen, those kind of things would be missed,” Vallabhan, who coordinates a full health clinic in Albuquerque High School, told NM Political Report in a recent interview.