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Schools struggle with belt tightening

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — New Mexico and most other states were able to avoid including the public schools in their first rounds of budget cutting. Since education is a state responsibility, nearly all states make it their primary responsibility. Some states pass much of that responsibility down to the local level.

But beginning with this year’s legislative sessions, public schools are now part of the budget balancing. Federal stimulus funds have been the savior thus far in helping states avoid cutting into public school budgets. But those funds appear to be ending soon.

The first round of major cuts around the country this year have resulted in furloughs, smaller paychecks, fewer extracurricular activities and decimated summer school programs.

Now get ready for the big cuts. In New Mexico and much of the nation will start seeing layoffs and swelling class sizes as states grapple with budget shortfalls that have shown no sign of subsiding. Wall Street may be recovering but that’s as far as it goes.

The next round of cuts get even scarier. Full day kindergartens are being reduced to half day in many communities. And now the top grades are being targeted. Utah is seriously considering eliminating the senior year of high school.