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Albuquerque schools budget for teacher loans, fewer students

August 31, 2021 GMT
Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Scott Elder poses for a photo outside of Highland High School on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Albuquerque, N.M. Elder said on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 that $50 million in federal pandemic relief funds should be used to offset a drop in enrollment during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Scott Elder poses for a photo outside of Highland High School on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Albuquerque, N.M. Elder said on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 that $50 million in federal pandemic relief funds should be used to offset a drop in enrollment during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Scott Elder poses for a photo outside of Highland High School on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Albuquerque, N.M. Elder said on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 that $50 million in federal pandemic relief funds should be used to offset a drop in enrollment during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s largest school district wants to use federal pandemic funding to prevent staff layoffs.

A proposal from Albuquerque Public Schools released Monday would direct $50 million in pandemic relief to offset a loss of state money tied to enrollment decline.

Superintendent Scott Elder said in a video conference the district lost around 5,000 students and around $50 million in state funding.

“One of the big points of federal money was to allow districts a year to try to stabilize themselves, and without having to do massive layoffs,” Elder said.

If adopted in the final budget, that stabilization would account for 25% of the nearly $200 million the district gets in the next and largest round of federal relief funds for schools.

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Around 15% of the proposed budget is aimed at helping chronically absent students.

The district also proposed buying more student laptops, upgrading ventilation, and paying up to $5,250 in student loans for district employees.

New Mexico school funding is based on student enrollment numbers from the previous year. Enrollment has dropped around 1% every year for the past decade due to population change. It dropped an additional 4% last year as some families chose to homeschool instead of participating in remote learning through public school.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.