More money, more problems: Schools tackle funding challenges for at-risk students

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE) – Last year, a district judge ruled that New Mexico isn’t doing enough to help at-risk students. So, lawmakers gave school districts around the state a $100 million to solve the problem.

Schools across New Mexico are working with a lot more money than they have in the past, including $100 million shared across the districts for at-risk students after a landmark lawsuit involving the Public Education Department.

But how will the districts use that money, and how will they be accountable for it?

“Districts have pretty wide latitude as to how they budget those funds, and we record these expenditures as they’re laid out,” said PED Secretary-designate Dr. Ryan Stewart. “But oftentimes, we find we can’t get the level of detail that is needed to be able to say definitively what is and what is not an at-risk expenditure.”

The PED’s secretary-designate told lawmakers Wednesday afternoon that some districts are double-checking with them on how they’re spending their share of the money on at-risk students because there’s no clear guidance on how to spend it.

“You have to prioritize your greatest needs,” said Rio Rancho Public School Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland.

Dr. Cleveland said they spent a lot of time assessing and picking which programs they felt would help those students, specifically.

“It’s very difficult,” said Dr. Cleveland. “You look at the needs primarily of your bilingual population, or do you look at the needs, particularly right now, in terms of social and emotional needs of children.”

Although this is new territory for schools, districts believe it will make a difference.

“We’re really thankful for the start, but it’s just a start,” said Dr. Cleveland. “We’ve got a long way to go before we can meet the needs of every child in our district.”

The secretary-designate told lawmakers he wants to make sure there’s accountability for how districts spend that at-risk funding.

Albuquerque Public Schools got the largest share of the money, nabbing about $64-million. They declined to speak with KRQE News 13 on camera.

CLICK HERE to see how much each school district received.

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