Funding levels for New Mexico’s K-12 public school system have still not recovered from budget cuts made during the peak of the recession. The education operating budget was 10 percent lower in the 2013-14 school year than it was before the recession, when adjusted for inflation.
The picture is even worse when accounting for growth in student enrollment. The operating budget on a per-pupil, inflation-adjusted rate was 14 percent lower in 2012-13 than it was before the recession. These are among the findings in a new report by New Mexico Voices for Children.
“We keep hearing a different story from Santa Fe, but the numbers show us that even before adjusting for inflation, the operating budget is more than $100 million lower than it was in 2008-09,” said Gerry Bradley, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst for NM Voices for Children, and report author. “When you adjust for inflation, we’re more than $300 million behind where we were five years ago.”
Early in the recession, federal funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped cushion the K-12 budget, although the extra funding did not entirely balance the overall cuts. Meanwhile, student enrollment was trending upward.
“Spending cuts during the recession compromised the state’s ability to educate its children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices. “Too many teaching positions were lost, which lead to larger class size. Research shows that children in poverty are the most negatively impacted by large class size. Children in large classes don’t get the extra or individualized attention they need to be successful. We need to step up and not just fund public education at pre-recession levels, but we need to make greater investments in our children, and finish what we started by fully funding New Mexico’s successful Pre-K program. Giving our children a strong start will ensure our children will be reading by 3rd grade and increase their likelihood of graduating on time.” Dr. García added.
The full report, New Mexico Public School Funding: Still Well Below Pre-Recession Levels, and an executive summary are available online at: http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/k-12-funding-rpt-5-14-web.pdf and http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/k-12-funding-rpt-5-14-exec-sum-web.pdf.