School funding makeover possible

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Local goals for education will be recorded today at a town hall meeting in Clovis.

About 15 such meetings are being held across the state to gather information for a state analysis of school funding, according to education officials.

A New Mexico Legislature task force commissioned the American Institutes for Research to conduct the study.

“We (legislators) all have issues with the formula,” said Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, an advisor to the New Mexico Funding Formula Study Task Force.

“It has served us well over all these years, but as we changed education, we have a need to take a second look at the formula,” she said.

Basic tenets of the current public school funding formula, also called the State Equalization Guarantee, were established in 1974 under the Public School Finance Act, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department Web site. The intent of the act was to equalize financial opportunity and to guarantee each New Mexico public school student equal access to programs and services, according to the Web site.

Several funding formula adjustments have been made over the years, but the basic concept of equalized funding has remained the same. The three-tiered licensure system — a state mandate effective this year that sets raises for school personnel, from teachers aides to maintenance personnel, based on experience and credentials — prompted this study of the formula, according to Kernan. Another state salary system operates in a similar manner, guaranteeing more money for school personnel with more education, Kernan said.

“We are not at all unpleased with the funding formula. We just want to tweak it,” she said.

“There are a lot of reasons this is a good time to do this (study),” said Karen DeMoss, a member of the American Institutes for Research team and a professor at the University of New Mexico.

A survey will be used at town hall meetings to garner local responses on education issues, education officials said.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, the survey may be completed online at www.nmschoolfunding.org. Also, educators may be nominated to serve on a professional panel assisting in the study at that Web site.