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"Reality Check" Letters on Schools Circulating in the Roundhouse

February 17, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - It's the last full day of the legislative session in Santa Fe and, as New Mexico lawmakers haggle over how much money will make it into the budget for public education, a group of teachers from Los Lunas is sharing a "reality check."

Dozens of letters from teachers in the district have been circulating around the Roundhouse, as the state capitol building is familiarly called. One of them was written by Melinda Reynolds, a kindergarten teacher at Sundance Elementary in Los Lunas. She says recent funding cuts are already affecting students every day.

"We only get one cartridge of ink for the whole year, and we're limited on our copies. Also, we've had transportation cuts already, which has affected after-school tutoring."

Reynolds reads from a letter written by a teacher who moved to New Mexico from Ohio and who worries that students here may face the same consequences she saw after that state made significant cuts to education spending.

"Class sizes rose to over 30 students; all special pull-outs were cut. No new supplies were purchased and some schools were using textbooks that were drastically outdated - and there weren't even enough for all students."

While New Mexico education avoided major cuts in this year's budget, the Senate version of the current budget bill, for next fiscal year, includes over $80 million less for education than the House version, and school districts statewide are already struggling with the hundreds of millions in cuts to state education funding made in previous sessions.

Lawmakers continue to try to hash out a compromise bill to send to the governor before the session ends Thursday at noon.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM