New Mexico school districts that had hoped to put a little more cushion in their budgets managed to persuade a sympathetic Legislature, but couldn’t get it past the governor’s veto pen. When she signed the 2018-2019 budget on March 7, Gov. Susana Martinez struck a line through $5 million state lawmakers had set aside to repay some school districts whose cash accounts had been swept by $40. 3 million to help fill a large budget gap in 2017. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Martinez had called the cash accounts of school districts “slush funds.” State superintendents — who drove to the capital en masse during the session to lobby lawmakers for repayment — call them reserve accounts that are used to make large payments like annual insurance, as well as extras like giving teachers stipends to take students to science camp.
A ballot measure that calls for using more money from the state’s $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education is a small step closer to going to voters this year. The House Education Committee on Monday voted 7-6 along party lines to approve the constitutional amendment that backers say could expand access to education programs for young children across New Mexico, the state with the highest rate of child poverty. Republicans on the committee voted against the proposal. They say it could deplete a fund that now props up the budgets of New Mexico’s public schools and is supposed to last forever. Democrats in the House of Representatives have made a priority of getting the measure, House Joint Resolution 1, on the November ballot.
State Sen. Linda Lopez is calling for the head of the New Mexico Public Education Department to resign over comments last month touting Manifest Destiny as one of the “fundamental principles of the country” — remarks that drew a scathing rebuke from Pueblo leaders. The department says Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski has reached out to tribal officials to express remorse after his comments at a charter school conference were reported in The Albuquerque Journal. But the remarks have still stirred outrage among indigenous New Mexicans who argue Ruszkowski demonstrated a lack of understanding about the history of westward expansion and the role of the education system in dispossessing Native Americans. The comments even drew the attention of The Washington Post this month. In a letter to Ruszkowski, Lopez wrote that he had still not explained what she described as “ill-advised comments.”
If state Sen. Bill Soules had his way, New Mexico would invest an extra $375 million in public schools right now. Where the cash-strapped state would find that money is another matter altogether. Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat, has once again introduced legislation calling for the state to follow the recommendation of a decadeold study and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars more into its public education system — one that generally ranks at or near the bottom in most national reports. But Soules’ bill doesn’t have a chance in the upcoming legislative session. And he knows it.
The state decided not to move forward with proposed science standards that would have taken out references to evolution, climate change and the age of the earth. Instead, the state Public Education Department will adopt the Next Generation Science Standards in full, with some New Mexico-specific additions. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news. The decision comes after intense criticism of the original proposed standards, culminating in an hours-long, overflow hearing during which every speaker opposed the changes. PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski did not attend that meeting.
Objections by U.S. Senate Republicans ended talk that Hanna Skandera might join the Donald Trump administration, according to a report in Politico Thursday. The report, which led the outlet’s Morning Education tipsheet, said the New Mexico Public Education Department secretary’s support for the controversial Common Core standards were one reason Republicans were skeptical to confirm her as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “I am focused on continuing the great progress we have started and will continue in New Mexico,” Skandera said in a statement to NM Political Report when asked about if she had any conversations about joining the Trump administration. “When education focuses on students and not politics, everyone wins.”
Skandera is the head of the governing board of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which produces a standardized test in public schools aligned with Common Core. Republicans have largely criticized Common Core standards, which the Barack Obama administration supported. Common Core standards’ roots came out of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act.
Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed two bills Tuesday that passed the Legislature with overwhelming support, including legislation that would have allowed high school students to count computer science classes toward math and science credits needed for graduation. The second vetoed bill would have made what appeared to be a minor change to state law dealing with tax increment development districts. Such districts are formed by local governments as a means to finance public infrastructure, like streets and utilities, for new development
Martinez did not provide explanation in her veto messages to legislators. The governor also signed two bills Tuesday. House Bill 230 allows horse-racing tracks that are combined with casinos, known as “racinos,” to change the number of days it hosts races each week.