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NM Teachers to Lawmakers: Downturn Shouldn't Drag Kids Down

February 2, 2009

Santa Fe – The economic downturn should not drag New Mexico kids down with it. That is the word from teachers across the state who support two bills in the state legislature that would revise the funding formula for public schools. The bills are HB331 and HB346, both introduced by Rep. Mimi Stewart.

Judith Pingel is a 7th-grade teacher at Mountain View Middle School in Alamogordo, where she's also the local National Education Association (NEA) president. She says teachers already were struggling with insufficient funding before the downturn, and something needs to be done soon to change the situation.

"We're seeing cutbacks in professional training, in supplies – everything is cut back because there's a freeze on how much money the schools have."

Critics of the plan question the timing of the bills during the economic downturn and the cost to implement the formula. But educators say the cost of implementation is actually less than initially reported. They add that the state constitution requires lawmakers to provide "sufficient funding" for public schools, and they point out that in recent years schools already have been forced to cut back.

Pingel says reducing education spending could lead to a downward spiral.

"It's going to be larger class size, less copies, less up-to-date material. I think the picture only shows our students doing worse instead of better."

To keep that from happening, Pingel urges lawmakers to take a hard look at their priorities.

"Well, we sure have enough money to invest in building a new prison – how many new schools are we investing in, and where is our priority? It should be in the classroom."

More information is available at www.nmschoolfunding.com.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM