The following offers highlights of the recent legislative session. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 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.
The New Mexico legislature passed bills in its recently concluded session that give teachers and school staff members raises, increase funding for pre-K programs, extend the school year for children in K-3 in high-needs schools, raise the dropout age, stiffen high school graduation requirements, and provide funding for an online academy.
In a two-month session that ended March 17, lawmakers approved a pre-K-12 budget for fiscal 2008 of $2.5 billion, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Nearly $98 million of that will be used for salary increases, said Don D. Moya, the deputy Cabinet secretary for the New Mexico education department. Teachers will receive a raise of 5 percent, he said, the same as for the previous year. Instructional-support providers, such as physical therapists, guidance counselors, and social workers, will receive a raise of 7 percent; assistant principals and principals also will receive a raise of 7 percent.
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In addition, $7 million will be used to expand the state’s Kindergarten Plus pilot program, which previously extended the school year by 20 days for kindergartners in high-needs schools. The additional funds will provide the same amount of extended time for children in 1st through 3rd grades who live in high-needs areas, according to Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia.
The legislature also approved approximately $7 million for the start of an online school.
In addition to raising the legal dropout age to 18 from 17, the legislature increased high school graduation requirements so that students will now take four years of mathematics, rather than three, and three years of lab science classes, rather than one, Ms. Garcia said. They also will be required to take an Advanced Placement course or an online course for which they can get college credit.
The legislature also passed a bill that requires school districts to report to the state education department instances in which employees face accusations of ethical misconduct and leave the district before an investigation is complete. The bill also prohibits school districts from making confidentiality agreements with employees in such cases. Ms. Garcia said the bill is especially intended to address any problems with sexual misconduct in schools.
“We think this will help better protect districts and students from employees who have had ethical issues and move on quietly to another school to repeat the same problems,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2007 edition of Education Week