The report card has arrived and the grades are not good for the largest school district in the state.
Last week, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee released one of its periodic reviews of our public schools – the first for Albuquerque public schools since 2007. The report was highly critical, exposed the district’s challenges and offered pointed advice, like cutting staff, consolidating classes and spending more on the education of low-income students who have fallen behind their classmates this school year.
And he wondered why spending kept rising while enrollment was dropping.
District operating expenses increased 21% from 2012 to 2021, or $126 million. School ownership has also increased 21% since 2012. And enrollment in the district has remained relatively stable, dropping 3% in a decade.
And yet, enrollment has fallen 17% over the past decade, a statistic cited repeatedly by reviewers in the report. (Falling birth rates and the rise in popularity of charter schools have led to fewer students; the pandemic making homeschooling a real option probably didn’t help the APS no. more). The district has 400 more teachers and staff than it should, according to the report – a tricky place after lawmakers raised teacher salaries last term to tackle a teacher shortage in the whole state.
And here’s the real boost: “Despite more funding and fewer students, student achievement in the district remains low and deteriorating,” LFC senior program evaluator Katie Dry told LFC members on May 27. april.
All of this underscores the need for good sizing, although this is a “tell me something I don’t know” exercise for APS administrators. They have already cut hundreds of vacancies, moved staff and announced they may consolidate schools in 2024.
The report also highlights that APS administration costs have increased 37% since 2012, more than the state average.
Yet, with funding tied to student enrollment, the district faces another projected budget shortfall. Falling enrollment in lower grades, along with falling birth rates, “will mean further declines in enrollment in years to come,” the evaluators warned.
The report says APS spending can be tempered by consolidating classes and overall grades, most of which are under-enrolled. He orders the APS to report back to the LFC within a year on how it plans to “adjust its facility footprint to declining enrollment”, which is a lot like closing some schools.
Superintendent Scott Elder has already agreed that staff must be reduced. According to the school funding formula for 2022, APS schools are expected to have 8,753 full-time employees; there are 9,169. The real problem is getting employees certified in the right fields — the district had 492 K-12 teachers more than the formula called for, but 357 teachers and teaching assistants. special education less than recommended. It’s a tough equation to solve, and an APS has struggled for years.
Ditto for leveraging “evidence-based” programs that have been proven to increase student academics.
On April 6, APS board members rejected a proposal to implement state-funded, district-wide extended learning time programs that would have added days and hours. overtime. They cited community disapproval as a factor.
Voters have just elected new members to this council in a resounding call to change the dismal status quo. Now is the time for members to roll up their sleeves, read the report, and start implementing the state’s recommendations – for the good of our children.
They can start by developing a five-year plan to manage the workforce and physical infrastructure, knowing that enrollment and funding declines are ahead. While Elder has warned that closing schools can create as many problems as it solves, it is high time for the district to consider how some of these buildings could be used/leased or sold to a school movement. charter that shows no signs of slowing down.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.