NM schools face major budget cuts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Someone messed up. Now, schools all across the state are in jeopardy of losing millions and the cuts could be harsh.

Parents and teachers met with Albuquerque Public School officials Monday night. Several of them told KRQE News 13 Tuesday, they’re worried their children will be the ones who suffer.

“They essentially are breaking federal law, no one is held accountable,” said Amy Garcia, a concerned parent of a fourth grade student in APS.

According to federal law, states must maintain or increase special education funding each year in order to get federal funds. But, a federal judge ruled last week, New Mexico broke the rules when it cut state funding for special education in 2011.

Now, the federal government could take away at least $34 million in education funding from the state, leaving districts in a bind.

Amy Garcia has a 9-year-old in Albuquerque Schools’ gifted and talented program.

“My concern is that my son won’t get what he needs, and right now he finally has found a cohort, so a group of other kids that are just like him,” said Garcia.

Garcia is among parents and teachers that are afraid cuts will come from the gifted and talented programs, which falls under the special education umbrella in New Mexico.

“They tend to have other emotional, social, psychological needs,” explained Garcia.

“They need a different structure, a different environment in order to learn, otherwise it’s a learning disorder. He can’t learn in a regular classroom,” Garcia added, referring to her son and how the gifted and talented program has helped him.

APS said they’ve already made huge cuts: $100 million, and 1,000 jobs, in order to maintain their end of what’s required by law for special ed, because, officials said, the state didn’t give them enough money.

“If the federal funding gets cut, then we’re going to have to do a whole other round of budget cuts, which we went through once, we don’t want to have to do it again,” explained Carrie Menapace, APS Policy Analyst.

APS stands to lose $15 million in federal funds. Cuts could stretch across the board.

“We don’t know if the money will affect teacher positions, that I supposed is up in the air,” said Christy Jewell-Roth, and APS Teacher.

Some teachers are afraid of losing their jobs.

“It is heightened anytime that we’re looking at the budget and having to use general ed moneys to supplement the special ed funds that the district is required to provide,” said Michael Freeman, APS Teacher.

The Public Education Department blames lawmakers for the cuts during hard economic times. APS said PED didn’t communicate with lawmakers. Either way, the threat for deep cuts is imminent.

“We just want more financial support so that we can make the best education decisions for all of our students,” said Menapace.

APS will send a letter to the U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, asking to continue federal funding at the existing level.

PED will ask for a waiver to prevent any federal cuts.

The U.S. Education Secretary will review the federal judge’s decision and can overturn it if he finds the decision is clearly incorrect. The state faces losing another $26 million for doing the same thing in 2012.

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