Governor responds to school district’s decision to cut middle school sports

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a decision that will affect about 3,400 students.

Albuquerque Public Schools’ middle school sports are being axed because of an anticipated budget shortfall.

Friday, the outrage from parents and kids is growing as is their demand for answers from APS.

“It’s a terrible situation. It’s painful, and kids live for some of this stuff, we know that, but if you don’t have money, you don’t have the money,” said APS spokesperson Monica Armenta.

Armenta says the decision to cut middle school sports will save the district $580,000. That money is for coach stipends, transportation, referees and other expenses. She says it’s just one way they’re meeting an expected $25 million shortfall.

“If it wasn’t middle school sports, it might have been AP classes. It could have been any number of things. None of them are going to please anyone. The groups that are unhappy would just change,” Armenta said.

Still, kids and parents are upset.

“I do understand that classroom instruction needs to come first, and I’m no expert on the budget, but that…sports is just such a vital part of so many lessons that are important that can’t be taught in the classroom,” parent Katie Bates said.

Many parents are asking why the superintendent, who makes about $250,0000 a year, and her higher ups don’t take a cut.

According to the state Public Education Department, there are 35 administrators who make six figures amounting to $4 million a year.

In response, APS says, “the administrative officers are taking a 10 percent cut, again. We’ve already, as administrators, taken one furlough day and more will be coming.”

APS officials say they still need to be able to pay for the basics needed to run the district. They point to Santa Fe.

“We’ve heard you at Albuquerque Public Schools, we are not the place to really talk with because we’re with you. We’re just dealing with the hand we were been dealt. It’s at the state level,” Armenta said.

“It’s really disappointing they would make such a reckless decision,” Gov. Martinez said.

The governor says there is money, it’s just how APS is choosing the spend it.

“Their priorities are distorted. We need to make a decision to put kids first. Especially when they’re savings is about $500,000 to $750,000, when they’re paying out a million dollars on [public information officers], on public relations specialists and on lobbyists, a million dollars,” Gov. Martinez said.

She also says APS isn’t being honest with the public.

“They don’t have to do this. This is a political game, just misinforming people,” she said.

APS officials dispute the governor’s claims that they have extra money on hand to spend. But the governor says they know they do because they have to report it to the state.

Middle school sports wasn’t the only program to be cut. The district is looking to reduce spending on the gifted program, increase class sizes and reduce days worked for contracted employees.

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