The Española School District saw a drop of about 5 percent in student enrollment this year based on 40th day counts.
Superintendent Fred Trujillo said he and other superintendents from around the state are hoping that the state will decide to use last year’s enrollment numbers for next fiscal year’s funding decisions. Districts’ upcoming fiscal year funding is based the previous year’s student enrollment.
Statewide, school districts completed the 40-day count of students in October, and the Public Education Department is currently validating all the numbers. The 80-day count will be in early December.
Trujillo said the District creates the count using attendance and enrollment information, and submits it by category or department, such as students receiving special services or students in bilingual programs.
New Mexico student counts are based on enrollment and for this year, attendance in online classes.
This year, the student count decreased from 3,200 to around 3,045 according to Trujillo.
The updated budget passed in a June special session cut $146 million from the state equalization guarantee, a key part of school funding of roughly $3.2 billion total, and swapped that funding with federal funds for the 2020-2021 school year. The budget also eliminated an agreed-upon raise of 4 percent for teachers statewide.
The final unit value for the 2019-2020 school year was $4,602.27. The Española School District received $29 million in funding through the state equalization guarantee.
Trujillo wrote in a text message that the unit value for 2020-2021 given in July was $4,531.74.
The current funding formula takes the number of enrolled students, plus special program participants and special education students and staff, as well as rural population and at-risk students.
Trujillo said most Districts are down in enrollment across the state, and Districts near the border of neighboring states have been seeing declines and losing students to other states.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a Nov. 14 press conference that she will hold a special session “soon” to address the ongoing pandemic.
“We’ve seen so many different causes and so many trickle effects with the pandemic,” Trujillo said. “We’re hoping that the legislators will take that into account. We’re hoping that they hold us harmless and that they allow us to utilize last year’s 40th-day count numbers.”
Trujillo said that ridership on transportation is almost zero because of the remote model, so the counts will not be accurate to use for next year’s budgets.
Almost all Española students are online this year. Trujillo said some students in remote areas are using paper packets if they do not have internet availability.
Trujillo said the School Board Association as well as teacher unions will advocate for a higher unit value for student funding. He said reports have shown as many as 50 percent of students having difficulty with online learning.
Trujillo said the District has had “surprisingly” decent online attendance. He said it was similar, possibly slightly higher than the attendance rate when students are on campus. Española School classes are expected to offer live virtual classes through Google Classroom for students.
“We’re hoping that the legislators will respond accordingly and help the districts in meeting those needs of the kids,” Trujillo said. “Not only with academics but the social, emotional learning as well.”