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COVID-19: Educators Want More Federal Dollars for Public Schools

The CARES Act provided $13.5 billion to the nation's public education system, but educators say a larger installment for public school systems is needed. (Lihuihuiycg/Pixabay)
The CARES Act provided $13.5 billion to the nation's public education system, but educators say a larger installment for public school systems is needed. (Lihuihuiycg/Pixabay)
May 14, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - School teachers in New Mexico are calling on the federal government to step up funding for state and local governments due to the coronavirus pandemic, noting that budget shortfalls could force layoffs of teachers and other essential school workers.

Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Mexico, says now it's nurses, but come fall, it will be teachers on the front lines of the pandemic.

She says harm to school districts because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 can be alleviated by increased federal funding.

"New Mexico cannot handle an economic aftermath of this coronavirus alone," she states. "We need the federal government to come in and give us assistance to ensure that the entire state of New Mexico is OK."

Ly notes it isn't only teachers, but also custodians, food service workers and support personnel who make sure schools operate day-to-day and contribute to New Mexico's economy.

State lawmakers are expected to convene a special session to address the economic fallout of the health crisis and consider whether funding cuts will be necessary to balance the budget.

New Mexico's public education system often ranks 50th in the nation, but cash-strapped schools have seen relief in the past two years.

State lawmakers provided a salary increase for teachers and school administrators, and created a new early education department.

Ly says public education goals could be set back if state budget projections drop significantly, as is currently expected.

"But if we had to get a cut -- say a 20% cut to our state revenue, which funds most of our schools -- it would be devastating," she states.

Because 80% of New Mexico is rural and high-poverty, significant funds were spent to allow students to continue their education through distance-learning during the pandemic, by creating Internet hot spots and purchasing electronic notebooks.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM