September 16, 2020

School districts’ menstrual products part of state’s budget cuts

Kendra Chamberlain

The New Mexico State Legislature approved $170,000 for menstrual products for some New Mexico public and charter schools for Fiscal Year 2021. But because of the recent state budget crisis, the legislature trimmed the state budget for menstrual products in the schools to $141,190 during the recent special legislative session, said Deborah Martinez, media relations coordinator for New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED).

This will affect 57 schools and school districts in the state. The grant awards vary, ranging from $500 allocated to the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy to $26,963 provided to Rio Rancho Public Schools.

Martinez said NMPED hasn’t sent out the new award notifications yet to the schools affected.

Española Public Schools received $5,200 for the 2020-2021 school year. Anna Vargas-Gutierrez, director of student wellness for Española Public Schools, said this allocation is slightly higher than last year and will enable the district to buy menstrual products as well as receptacles for the products and liners for the disposal of the products.

Vargas-Gutierrez said Española Public Schools has already stocked up and upgraded. It is expecting to implement a hybrid learning model starting on October 19, which will allow for some in-person learning.

Vargas-Gutierrez said that until 2019, Española Public Schools didn’t purchase large quantities of menstrual products.

If the district’s supply ran low in the past, she said the school system of approximately 3,700 students would utilize the district’s general fund and Medicaid program through the school nurse in previous years. 

“We appreciate having that extra fund,” Vargas-Gutierrez said.

Some school districts, such as Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), are not affected by the belt tightening.

Monica Armenta, executive director of communications for APS, said the school district received $141,008 last year from NMPED for menstrual products.

“Last year’s allocation will be enough to carry us through at least the next couple of years so the district is not asking for additional funding at this time,” she wrote.

The state’s allocation for menstrual products for the schools and districts state-wide for the 2019-2020 school year was $335,000, said Martinez.

Other larger school districts in the state, such as Santa Fe Public Schools and Las Cruces Public Schools, were also not on the list this year for grant awards.

Rio Rancho Public Schools Communications Manager Melissa Perez told NM Political Report that Rio Rancho plans to use the money to both purchase menstrual products as well as new or additional dispensers for those products.

Last year, Rio Rancho Public Schools received a grant of $5,197 from the NMPED to purchase menstrual products.

Perez said that Rio Rancho Public Schools doesn’t anticipate a shortage of supply or a shortage of funding for menstrual products this school year. Perez said if the district experiences a reduction in funding for menstrual products, it would continue to provide the products as needed through the school nurses. She also said the district has the products in the district’s inventory. Rio Rancho Public Schools has implemented learning options, including a hybrid learning model, which allows students to return to some in-person learning during this school year.

“There will be no interruption in that service to students,” Perez said via email.