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Locals battle education cuts

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Educators refuse to take cuts lying down

By Carol A. Clark

SANTA FE — Superintendent Gene Schmidt, teacher’s union leader Karyl Ann Armbruster and a slew of other teachers and administrators from Los Alamos and around the state descended on the Round House Saturday imploring law makers to save education against cuts.

Gov. Bill Richardson had called legislators into a Special Session at 3 p.m. for the sole purpose of balancing the state budget.

Educators are struggling with an already “cut to the bone” budget and they fear further cuts during this Special Session.

“We’re here to impress upon the state legislature that cutting education is counter productive … We are here to be the conscience of the legislature and to be a visible reminder of how important education is to the state,” Schmidt said.

Armbruster agreed saying, “They’ve got several billion in that rainy day fund and I think it’s pouring,” referring to the nearly $300 million deficit that must be made up in order to balance the state’s 2009 books.

Executive Director Tom Sullivan of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators also spoke with legislators.

“My biggest concern is they seem unwilling to address the revenue side of the equation – they only looking at the expenditure side and seeing where they can make cuts and I think that’s a flawed process,” Sullivan said. “We are going to stick by our guns and the governor’s proclamation that there should be no cuts and that’s supported by the Research and Polling Inc., survey that shows more than 80 percent of new Mexicans said no to education cuts to balance the budget and no to teachers’ salary cuts to balance the budget and I think that’s unprecedented.”

Richardson announced Monday that he will form a working group to analyze revenue measures that can be considered during the regular legislative session in January.  

“Given the fiscal realities facing the state, I am prepared to consider a comprehensive, well-reasoned revenue package for the regular legislative session in January 2010. Between now and then I will convene a working group consisting of legislators, executive staff, members of the business and education communities, and other interested parties to analyze such a package,” Richardson said. “Already in this session there have been some intriguing proposals introduced. However, I believe these must not be injected piecemeal without serious analysis into the present budget calculation but rather should be part of a well-crafted and mapped out package in January. Accordingly, I agree with action taken by committees in both the House and Senate that supports this view.

In the meantime, I urge the legislature to quickly address the immediate budget needs at hand in a way that preserves jobs, does not harm the economy, and protects students and teachers.”