The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Gov. Bill Richardson has signed a budget for fiscal 2006 that raises New Mexico’s total public school support by nearly 7 percent over the current budget, to $2.1 billion, while targeting prekindergarten and teacher pay for new funding.
Advancing one of his legislative priorities, Gov. Richardson, a first-term Democrat and a former U.S. secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, signed the Pre-Kindergarten Act into law last month. It provides opportunities for voluntary prekindergarten to more than 1,400 4-year-olds, and is the first step toward what the governor hopes will be universal prekindergarten.
The 2006 budget includes $5 million for the program.
The new budget includes $51.8 billion to pay for the next phase of the state’s three-tiered teacher-pay system. That funding will bring the minimum salary for the top two levels of teachers to $40,000.
Other school-related bills signed by the governor include legislation that extends the state’s law allowing for charter schools. The original law, passed in 1999, was slated to expire June 30. Gov. Richardson also signed a bill that created New Mexico’s first department of higher education, with a Cabinet-level secretary. The new agency replaces the Commission on Higher Education.