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Bill to shift federal education funding pits urban schools against tribes

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BY ROBERT NOTT
The New Mexican

Two state senators who represent rural districts hope to topple a long-standing system that uses the lion’s share of a federal grant program to help fund urban schools.

Operational money from the grants initially goes to 25 school districts and five charter schools. But then the state shortchanges these needy districts, said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, who called what happens “a shell game.”

That’s because the districts and schools selected to receive money from the Impact Aid program only get a quarter of the overall annual grant, which topped $78 million last year.

The state redirects the rest of the money to other school districts through New Mexico’s per-student funding formula. Muñoz and Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, want to change that.

They say redistributing the grant money to other school districts isn’t fair to hard-pressed schools and undermines the intent of the program.

Muñoz and Sanchez spoke with trembling emotion of children in their districts who do not have running water at home, whose school buildings and athletic fields are in disrepair and whose teachers live 100 miles away from the closest community. These teachers sacrifice material and comfort goods to serve their students, the senators said.


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