Schools call for legislative campaign

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By Special to the Monitor

Los Alamos Public Schools is sponsoring a Town Hall Meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fuller Lodge, to review the implications of House Bill 241.

It is expected the bill will be presented to the New Mexico Legislature during its upcoming session and, if enacted, could result in funding cuts of about $3 million to the Los Alamos Public Schools.

Last year, Representative Mimi Stewart, D-Bernalillo, introduced this bill that revamps the educational funding formula currently used in New Mexico.

While almost every district in the state will receive more money under its provisions, there are about three that will lose.

Los Alamos is one of those and stands to lose the most – a worst-case scenario would cut $2 million from the general fund and another $800,00 presently received for Gifted Education.

Special Education in services will also be limited to 16 percent of any student population. Currently LAPS has identified approximately 18 percent of the students as needing special education.

The new funding formula (created by American Institutes for Research, a California company contracted by the state) is supposed to provide a “sufficient” education for every student.

While many New Mexico students do not meet “sufficiency,” as measured by Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the majority of students in Los Alamos exceed this minimal benchmark, indicated by the high percentage of LAHS students that pursue college education.

The school’s administration believes the bill mistakenly assumes that students who make sufficient progress already receive an adequate education, and consequently those districts whose populations exceed sufficient progress receive too much money.

Secondly, the bill folds gifted services into mainstream education, eradicating the funding for identification and individual services for students who significantly exceed “sufficiency.”

This group includes at least 13 percent of the student population district- wide, and also includes other students enrolled in AP classes currently offered at the high school.

Luckily, during the last legislative session, the bill was set aside for revisions and individual districts’ input.

The Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) is holding meetings with superintendents around the state to gather information and feedback as to how extra monies will be used.

Superintendent Dr. Mary McLeod is scheduled to meet with the LESC Nov 9.

She will use this opportunity to illustrate how much funding the district will lose, and how severely this proposed new formula will impact each student in Los Alamos. The bill will be re-introduced in January.

To increase community awareness and understanding of HB 241 and its ramifications, LAPS is sponsoring the Town Hall meeting.

McLeod will explain issues of concern contained in the bill, how it will affect the district, and what impact it could have on the value of children’s education.

School Board Chair Steve Girrens and member Joannie Ahlers will be on hand to answer questions.

The Los Alamos community is invited and encouraged to attend.

One strategy the administrators wish to explore would be to persuade the Legislature to amend the bill to contain a “hold harmless clause” and protect essential services.