SANTA FE (KRQE) - The potential loss of tens of millions of dollars in federal education funding over something the state did got the attention of the Senate Finance Committee in Santa Fe Wednesday.
Late in the afternoon the committee was still meeting on the issue that stems from cuts the state made to its education budget in recent years.
At last report there wasn't even agreement on how much future money is at risk: $43 million, according to the state Public Education Department; possibly $150 million, according to lawmakers.
The problem stems from a federal policy that requires states to maintain or increase state funding for special education or see their federal grant funding cut.
Because of the state's budget crunch, starting in 2009 all education funding, including special ed, shrank over two school years.
In 2011, the feds notified the state that there might be a problem with that.
Last August, New Mexico formally applied for a waiver so it wouldn't lose future funding.
That waiver is still under consideration while New Mexico gives the feds more information.
Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said students in need will be served no matter what the feds decide.
If the waiver is denied, PED said New Mexico would see about $43 million in grant funding cut over two years.
The PED already has set aside half that from its proposal for next year's budget just in case.
It's unclear when the feds could rule on that waiver.
The state has until Feb. 14 to send in more information to support its case.
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