The 2021 Regular Legislative Session is history now. But the bills that passed, failed, or were set aside for another day will continue to shape the educational landscape of New Mexico. Here is a brief summary of the legislative outcomes.
State budget: Near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, state economists projected a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2021. Thanks to an infusion of federal pandemic relief money and much more optimistic revenue projections from oil and gas, the state government will increase spending by 4.8 percent, or $373 million. The proposed $7.4 billion budget passed both chambers in the final days of the session and is now headed to the governor’s desk. For public education the budget included:
- $3.39B appropriation for public education, an increase of $175M, or 5.5% over the 2021 fiscal year’s budget;
- $160M for extended learning programs, and $120M for K5+ programs;
- $20M for the extended learning pilot outlined in HB 184/aa (see explnation below);
- 1.5% average Cost-of-Living increases for all K-12, Transportation, and Higher Education employees;
- 0.5% increase in Higher Education Funding, despite decreases in enrollment;
- Adjusts the “credit” for Federal Impact Aid so school districts serving Native American students can keep a greater amount of funding generated by those students and communities;
- $34M for a 1% increase to state contribution to the ERB in ‘FY 22, as outlined in SB 42/aa;
- Includes language directing school districts and charter schools to provide 10 days of COVID-related sick leave, through the use of federal funds, should employees need to quarantine or isolate due to exposure-related protocols;
- $5M for teacher preparation scholarships;
- $1M for teacher residency funding;
- $500K for Grow Your Own Teachers Act scholarships;
- $35M for culturally and linguistically appropriate instruction materials;
- $30M for the Family Income Index, which is for additional funding to at-risk schools (see below section);
- $20M for Community Schools from the education reform fund;
- $11M for additional funding to the Opportunity Scholarship, which provides scholarships for degree-seekers at 2-year and 4-year public New Mexico colleges and universities;
- $22M to expand Pre-K, home visiting, and increase funding to support childcare workers; and,
- Leaves a General Fund Reserve of 24% or $1.76B.
Extended learning: SB 40/aa outlines parameters for Extended Learning Time Programs and K5+ programs for the next year but does not make either program mandatory.
Opportunity Scholarship: Lawmakers agreed to continue funding the Opportunity Scholarship at $18 million, which provides tuition assistance for thousands of New Mexican students pursuing degrees at two-year colleges. Lawmakers also approved $10.5 million to the Legislative Lottery Scholarship, which covers 90 percent of college tuition costs.
Family Income Index, SB 17/a, committed $30M to a two-year pilot project which would target additional resources for schools serving high-poverty communities.
Currently, 73 schools across New Mexico would be eligible for this funding. Family Income Index funding is separate from the State Equalization Guarantee (SEG) funding and would not supplant funds generated by the SEG.
Extended Learning Pilot Program: HB 184/aa did not pass the State Senate. However, the language necessary for instituting the pilot program was included in House Bill 2&3/a (the Budget).
HB 184/aa proposes the possibility for a district to implement extended learning programs through an hours-based approach as opposed to a day-based approach. It would allow elementary schools to explore this option through a 2-year pilot program, which is supported by $20M in funding in the Senate-amended version of the budget (HB 2&3/a). The pilot would add 140 additional instructional hours to the participating school’s instructional time.
Increase to Employer ERB Contributions, SB 42/aa, increases the state’s employer contribution to the NM Educational Retirement Board accounts of educators by 2%, over two years. This will help ensure a strong pension fund for educators.
Changes to SPED Alternative Licensure: Provides for additional training and mentorship for alternatively licensed educators who are seeking to teach in a special education setting.
No hair discrimination: Supporters of an effort to prohibit discipline or discrimination based on a student’s race or culture because of a hairstyle or headdress scored a victory when Senate Bill 80 passed both chambers.
High School Graduation Changes: We are saddened that HB 83 which would have changed the type of credits high schoolers would need to graduate stalled in the Senate Education Committee — though lawmakers vowed to study the issue in the interim. House Bill 83 would have dropped the number of required credits, allowed students more leeway in choosing electives and let them bypass Algebra 2.
House Joint Resolution 1, a proposed amendment to the NM Constitution, will be decided by voters. HJR 1/a asks New Mexican voters to approve a Constitutional Amendment which would disburse additional funding from the Permanent School Fund specifically for early childhood education and services.
HJR1/a was amended in the Senate Finance Committee to reinstitute the approval process by Congress to add an additional recipient for the Permanent School Fund, increase the proposed disbursement from 1% to 1.25%, and institute a proportional split of 60% of funds for early childhood education and services and 40% of funds for K-12 education.
The path of HJR 1/a has been nearly a decade in the making, and with the Senate’s approval, this measure will be placed on the ballot for consideration by New Mexico voters in an upcoming election.
Your union is here to advocate for professional wages and the best teaching and learning conditions for all staff and students. Our work takes place in the schools, at the negotiations table, and in Santa Fe. We made some substantial gains in the legislature again this year. We will never stop advocating for a world class education system for all New Mexican students.