The New Mexico House of Representatives has approved a nearly $10.2 billion spending plan, including a $4.705 billion appropriation to public education.
This budget, passed January 31 on a 53-16 bipartisan vote, now advances to the Senate. The bill reflects a significant financial commitment to various sectors, but especially in education, where the state has long been struggling to improve its student results in the face of the Yazzie-Martinez court ruling in 2018 that declared the state was not doing enough for its most disenfranchised students.
To the New Mexico Public Education Department, the legislature is considering:
- Recurring general fund appropriations for public schools: $4.43 billion. This is a 6.1 percent increase over the FY24 budget.
- Funding for the Public Education Department Operations: $23.94 million, a 1.5 percent increase from FY24.
- Non-recurring programmatic funding for department initiatives: $140.13 million.
- Transfers from the Education Reform Fund for programs: $54.5 million.
K-12 education spending accounts for more than 46 percent of the proposed state budget.
The House education budget, largely reflecting the Legislative Finance Committee’s recommendations, has diverged from some of the governor’s proposals. Notably, it omits the proposed $30 million Literacy Institute, instead recommending $3 million for planning and design.
The House budget includes two percent salary increases for all school personnel. Additionally, funding is provided for districts to provide additional increases at their discretion, as long as the additional increases average two percent across employees. The cost of these pay increases is the largest line item in the budget, totaling $125.54 million.
The next largest line items in the budget are: transportation maintenance and operations ($104.84 million), funding for extended learning time ($60 million), Educator Clinical Practice ($60 million), Tribal Education Trust Fund ($50 million) and Career Technical Education ($40 million).
A one-sentence amendment introduced on the House floor by Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena) addressing funding for public education stipulates that money allocated to the New Mexico Public Education Department must not be used to require school districts to meet for 180 days a year. This amendment is in response to concerns raised by rural Democrats and Republicans a proposed administrative rule from the Public Education Department, which would mandate all schools in the state – including those in rural areas that operate four day school weeks– to meet the 180-day minimum requirement.
Armstrong argued that including this language in the budget allowed the Legislature to assert its powers and present a unified voice against the governor’s policy. A bipartisan group of representatives voted to incorporate the amendment into the House budget bill.
With Armstrong’s amendment, the House approved a general fund budget of $10.18 billion, marking a $621 million increase, or 6.5 percent, compared to the previous year. While this allocation falls short of Governor Lujan Grisham’s proposed $10.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year, it slightly exceeds the recommendation of the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee.
Representative Nathan Small (D – Las Cruces) described the budget as an effort to prudently allocate the projected $3.4 billion budget surplus while also controlling spending growth to avoid more substantial cuts in the future. He highlighted the extensive public engagement that contributed to what he referred to as the most transparent budget process in history.