More than 100 parents, public school teachers and school staff, higher education employees, and community leaders from across New Mexico held a “Rally To Save Public Education” on Jan. 17 at the Capitol to urge an end to three consecutive years of cuts that have harmed public education in the state.
“Our public schools cannot sustain any more cuts; we’re already down to—even through—the bone,” said AFT New Mexico president Christine Trujillo, who is an AFT vice president. “Three years of education cuts have been devastating and unsustainable for our students, schools and communities.”
More than 2,000 school employees across the state have been laid off, resulting in larger class sizes, and there have been severe cuts—if not total elimination, in some schools—in music, art, physical education and after-school programs.
Since 2008, New Mexico has cut more than $400 million from its public education budget, while giving away more than $530 million in tax breaks to corporations and special interest groups. Some of the more drastic cuts included a $254 million budget reduction in 2010 that hasn’t been replaced and a $77 million midyear cut this past September that will be only partially replaced with one-time funds.
Rally attendees called for a sense of shared sacrifice in state budget decisions. In addition to education program cuts and personnel layoffs, Trujillo said New Mexico’s school employees agreed to sacrifice 1.5 percent of their pay for the past two years to help shore up the deficit.
“In tough times, we all have to tighten our belts. Lawmakers started down the right road last year when they passed a small package of revenue enhancements to offset two years’ worth of deep budget cuts,” said Michele Lis, a member of the Parent Legislative Action Network for Education (PLANE). “They have to continue down that road because we can’t afford to sacrifice our children’s education any longer.”
The coalition suggested some revenue enhancers, including requiring out-of-state businesses to pay state taxes on their profits, repealing the 2003 tax cut for the wealthy that cost New Mexico’s public schools $450 million, enacting a dime-a-drink tax on alcoholic beverages, and making permanent at least the current 5.8 percent interest rate contribution to schools from the Permanent School Fund.
“We support a budget that shifts economic burdens away from taxpayers, and we want lawmakers to take an approach that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of our schoolchildren,” said Trujillo. “Investing in education is investing in the future, and it’s the best way to put our citizens back to work and get our state back on track.”
Representatives from AFT New Mexico, PLANE, the New Mexico School Boards Association, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Albuquerque Teachers Association and NEA-New Mexico spoke at the rally. [AFT New Mexico press release]
January 18, 2011

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