Proposed legislation would provide tax deduction for teachers

School supply drives are a regular sight in the weeks leading up to school starting every August. It is not just students’ parents who buy pencils, paper and protractors; teachers, many times, spend hundreds of dollars to keep their classrooms stocked for the school year. One proposed bill in this year’s legislative session seeks to help curb that expense. State Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, pre-filed a bill that would help offset the expense by allowing teachers who buy school supplies to get a tax deduction of up to $500 for the purchase if the bill is approved during the 2023 legislative session. Marsella Duarte, an Albuquerque kindergarten teacher, supports the bill and said she has spent more than $500 on school supplies for her class.

Marsella Duarte appointed to fill state House vacancy

The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint kindergarten teacher Marsella Duarte to fill the vacancy in state House District 16 at a special meeting Wednesday. The appointment lasts until the end of the term, which is Dec. 31 of this year. Duarte was one of seven applicants in attendance at the meeting. Duarte is a lifelong resident of the district, which covers portions of Albuquerque’s Westside along Coors Boulevard from Central Avenue to Montaño Road.

ABQ City Council passes ordinance to create Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Commission

The Albuquerque City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to create the city’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Commission Monday evening. The creation of the commission is the first of 39 recommendations the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force made earlier this fall. Other recommendations include building a clearinghouse website with information, providing training to businesses as well as financial support and structure for domestic violence training in Albuquerque Public Schools and the University of New Mexico. The task force also recommended the city support the Albuquerque Police Department and other agencies in collecting and tracking data and that the city provide financial support and structure within the Community Safety Department to train responders on cultural competence, language access, LGBTQ populations and education on domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

Another recommendation is for the city to hire a full-time domestic violence coordinator, a position that is already filled. The task force met for two years and brought together various stakeholders including representatives from community groups who work with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

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

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.

Tough on moms: Stories of struggle and juggling demands during the pandemic

A domestic worker and mother of four, Olga Santa lost her job because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her daughters, age 7, 11, 13 and 15, are all learning remotely this fall in Albuquerque and will continue to do so for some time; the Albuquerque Public Schools Board voted six to one in August to continue distance learning through the end of the fall semester. 

Like other families, Santa is juggling the stress and challenges of her daughters’ remote learning during an unprecedented pandemic. That includes worrying that if her husband, who works in construction, tests positive for COVID-19, they have no backup plan. With Santa out of work, her husband’s paychecks must now stretch to cover all of their expenses. When he was sick this year due to allergies and kidney stones, he still had to appear at the construction site because the family couldn’t afford for him to take a day off.

NM school districts prepare for new plans for the last weeks of school

Many parents across New Mexico will start this week with questions and concerns about their children’s education after the state’s Public Education Department last week announced schools will be closed through May. But to keep students engaged and to justify not making up missed weeks of school, PED has asked all school districts to submit an educational plan. A looming special legislative session to balance the state’s books, a large number of rural school districts in the state and cash-strapped schools adds to the uncertainty of student access and expectations. But the agency said parents should not panic about access to computers or not being able to take on the role of a teacher. 

PED spokeswoman Nancy Martira told NM Political Report that the agency is fully aware of the many challenges families are faced with. 

“We are asking educators to keep in mind that many families have limited data, minimal access to the Internet, and one device which must be shared between multiple people,” Martira said. She said PED does not expect parents to sit with their children for eight hours a day.

Here’s where APS students can get a meal while schools are closed

Albuquerque Public Schools announced Friday that, in light of school closures around the state to aid in halting the spread of COVID-19, the district will offer meals to students at 89 schools around the city. 

According to APS, meal locations will have a drive-up line to pick up the meals. The district said no one should enter school buildings to pick up food and that students must be present to receive meals. Students can pick up meals at any of the participating schools, with the exception of New Futures, a school for young parents. New Futures students can only get meals at that school. 

Pickup time is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Below is a list of the participating schools:

1.       Pajarito 

2.

State officials scramble to respond to restraint and seclusion in schools

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Hector Balderas and Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, are all moving independently to rein in some of the most dangerous practices in New Mexico classrooms: restraint and seclusion. Each is pursuing separate initiatives to enforce stricter reporting requirements for incidents involving the controversial practices.  

Their efforts follow an October 2019 Searchlight investigation revealing that New Mexico schools routinely restrain and seclude special education students, often in violation of state and federal law. The state’s largest school district, Albuquerque Public Schools, has restrained and secluded students well over 4,600 times since 2014, the investigation found. It also found that APS repeatedly filed misleading reports to the federal government, even taking the extraordinary step of refusing to provide records to parents whose children were restrained or secluded.  

Often referred to as “therapeutic holding” or “physical management,” restraint is a contentious and dangerous method of behavior management derived from karate and judo, in which specially trained school staff place children and youth in physical holds that restrict movement. Seclusion, another behavior management practice, entails forcing a student into isolated rooms sometimes referred to as “scream rooms.” 

Child psychologists have decried the practices as ineffective and traumatic — for both students and staff.

Legislators could strip school districts of discretion over medical cannabis in schools

Some state lawmakers are ready to remove school districts’ discretion over how medical cannabis is administered to students who are medical cannabis patients. 

The issue of how and when approved students can get their medicine has been divisive and controversial at times. But this year New Mexico became one of about a dozen states to allow some students to consume cannabis at school. Unlike other states, New Mexico’s law left some decisionmaking up to school districts. That local control has stirred additional controversy and caused some confusion amongst lawmakers. Some of those lawmakers say school districts abused that privilege. 

State law allows districts to come up with their own policies for medical cannabis, including limitations on who administers the medical cannabis.

Who’s the threat? Hundreds of special ed students ID’d as potential threats

ALBUQUERQUE – Jamari Nelson likes action figures and video games – the “usual kid stuff,” as the 7-year-old put it. One of his favorite activities is making slime out of glue, laundry detergent, and other household chemicals. The kitchen cabinet is stocked with plastic baggies of his multicolored goop. “I sort of really recommend this one for stress and stuff,” he said, showing off a mustard-yellow slime the consistency of Silly Putty. He likes squeezing it, feeling it ooze between his fingers, stretching it until it becomes so thin that it melts.