SANTA FE (KRQE) - A long-awaited letter from the U.S. Department of Education brought good news and plenty of bad news to New Mexico Monday.
New Mexico's Public Education Department (PED), was looking for a special education maintenance of effort waiver for two budget years.
According to federal rules, state must maintain or increase funding levels for special education year over year or risk facing grant funding cuts.
When New Mexico was hit with a massive budget crunch in 2009, everything got cut, including education.
Last September, NM Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera asked the feds to waive the federal requirement for FY 2010 and FY 2011, claiming the state's financial situation made the cuts unavoidable.
Monday, the federal government responded, granting the state's request in FY 2010.
"The news we received from the feds today is a partial victory for the state of New Mexico absolutely," Skandera told News 13 in a phone interview.
But, arguably, more of a defeat.
The feds denied the FY 11 request, claiming New Mexico underfunded special education by $34.1 million that budget year. New Mexico can appeal that decision and Skandera says the state will work on clarifying some of the facts the feds included in the letter before doing so.
The problem could be larger than that.
"The Department notes that the data provided by NMPED indicate the the State failed to maintain State financial support for special education and related services in FY 2012 by approximately $26.4 million," wrote Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education, in his letter to Skandera.
On top of that, the feds are concerned that New Mexico is short in FY 2013 and could be short in FY 2014 as well. All of that means millions more could be lost if the state can't successfully appeal the decision.
"Unfortunately I can't agree with the idea that it's a partial victory because in the end the state of New Mexico is still going to be on the hook for millions of dollars and I hardly see that as a victory," Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, told News 13.
New Mexico is not alone in asking for the special education waiver. Seven other states have asked for waivers of the maintenance of effort requirement. Five of those states received those waivers.
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