SANTA FE – Education advocates are urging New Mexico lawmakers to take action during the next legislative session to preserve school budgets amid a drop in enrollment attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of a legislative panel were meeting Wednesday to discuss potential legislation as schools face a reduction in funding because of lower enrollments. Funding for the next school year is allocated based on enrollment this semester.
During an online town hall Tuesday, Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart pitched viewers on legislation to freeze funding based on pre-pandemic numbers.
“We’ve heard from many many many of our board members and superintendents about the impact that the pandemic is having on enrollment this year and the way in which it’s really an outlier,” Stewart said.
State Rep. Natalie Figueroa, an Albuquerque Spanish teacher, is one of two dozen representatives and senators meeting Wednesday as part of the Legislative Education Study Committee.
School funding in New Mexico is determined by the number of students enrolled at the 40-day mark, known by some educators as the “money count.” That count is not yet complete, but preliminary numbers show a significant drop in the state’s largest school district.
In Albuquerque, enrollment has dropped by about 4,000 students, bringing the total to 76,000. School district spokesperson Monica Armenta cautioned that the 5% drop could change because enrollment numbers still are fluid.
Last year, enrollment in Albuquerque had dropped by 1,000, a change attributed to a drop in the student population across New Mexico, where the population hasn’t grown much over the past decade.