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Teachers: NM "Student Success Program" Another Budget Casualty?

February 17, 2009

Santa Fe - Teachers say there's a federally-mandated program that could help New Mexico students on all levels -- except that the formulas used to make it work don't fit with the state's budget crunch.

Part of the No Child Left Behind law is a system called "Response to Intervention" (RTI). It's designed to make sure each student gets the right kinds of special assistance and services they need to learn. Laurie Vazquez, a fourth grade teacher in Belen, says making the program work requires time, funds and staff -- all of which are in short supply in New Mexico schools.

"The process, although it's a very good one, is almost impossible for classroom teachers to really provide the kind of assistance that we're supposed to."

When RTI has adequate resources, Vazquez explains, students with special needs can progress in ways that allow them to reintegrate into the regular classroom. But she believes the funding this would require is unlikely at best in this economic climate.

In fact, as lawmakers in Santa Fe play budget bingo in the Roundhouse, larger class sizes could be the result. Vazquez sees that as a step in the wrong direction for implementing this program.

"We need to get to the point where we're looking at, not just small class size, but providing either more assistance in classrooms or more special education teachers."

State lawmakers are currently looking at ways to trim the education budget, while some propose recalculating the state's school funding formula to make sure students aren't left behind in the downturn.

Eric Mack/Deb Courson, Public News Service - NM