Budget cuts down state plane for blind kids, NMSU steps up

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired used to use a state plane to fly children around the state to their homes. A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said those flights stopped in 2010 due to the recession.

But when the school asked to start using the plane again, the Governor’s Office said no. “They go home every Friday night and come back every Sunday,” said the school’s Superintendent Linda Lyle.

Lyles said sometimes children under the age of five are bused for nine hours to their families in northern New Mexico. “The most cost-efficient system is the state plane,” she said.

Senator John Arthur Smith said for several administrations before Governor Martinez, the students were always flown home on a state plane, but at a budget hearing this year, “I asked if they were still flying the kids home, and the response was, no they’re not because the money wasn’t there,” said Senator Smith.

Lawmakers made the money available, “Both Republicans and Democrats are on that committee and there was absolutely no objection,” said Smith.

They provided $150,00, to pay for the fuel of the flights. “I have not officially heard from the Governor’s Office, but my understanding from the Department of Transportation is that we were not going to be able to use the plane… and I don’t know why that is,” said Lyle.

The Governor’s Office, which oversees the division that runs the plane, told KRQE News 13 the $150,000 would not have covered maintenance costs for the plane. They said there are only six seats available on the plane, and Senator Smith said between two to three children, including a chaperon would have flown on the plane.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office also said that due to recent budget challenges caused by the oil and gas crash, they had to tighten their belts all across state government, so that citizens of New Mexico wouldn’t have to pay higher taxes.

They also went on to say the plane is used for the Children’s Medical Services nearly every week, flying to rural areas of the state, which they said would have caused scheduling conflicts with the flights for students as they both would be made on Fridays.

The spokesperson also said the flights for the students at the NM School for the Blind and Visually Impaired was initially stopped in 2010 because of the budget crisis .

Now the school is working with New Mexico State University to use their state plane. They should find out soon if they will be able to use it.

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