LL Schools sends message in sequestration resolution

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Fallout from the debt-ceiling budget deal made by the White House with Congressional leaders last year is about to devastate the public school system.

More cuts to the education budget are on the way if Congress passes the Budget Control Act of 2011. The act imposes a $1.2 trillion budget cut to federal programs, including a $2.7 billion education cut.

This would impact the Los Lunas School District by an 8.2 percent budget reduction, said Superintendent Bernard Saiz.

The National School Boards Association has asked state school boards to sign a resolution asking government officials not to make cuts to the education budget.

These across-the-board budget cuts are known as sequestration, and are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2.

"Whether Congress passes the act or not is what's going to make a difference on it," Saiz said

The Los Lunas Board of Education passed the sequestration resolution provided by the New Mexico School Boards Association at a recent meeting.

"We have teachers' salaries, classified and administrative salaries that are paid for out of federal funding," said Saiz. "We have federal funds in the form of IDEA B, which is used in special education; our bilingual funds, which is used for our non-English speakers; our Title I, our Title II.

"This district, as well as many others in New Mexico, would be hurt severely, probably irreparably if a significant amount of the federal funding in this state were cut."

The NMSBA sent letters to all school board presidents, asking them to look over the resolution, said Charles Tabet, president of the Los Lunas Board of Education.

"They asked us to consider putting in a resolution, so they could send in as many school districts as possible," Tabet said. "I already got an email from them saying a group of resolutions have been sent up, and they were looking for more before the actual fiscal cliff."

All the signed school district resolutions are being sent to Washington in the hopes of mitigating drastic cuts to education.

"Personally, I also believe that if we're going to balance the budget, we do have to have cuts across the board," said Shaun Gibson, vice president of the board. "But I also believe that the cuts need to be done strategically. I don't believe that it is gratuitous for us to continue to borrow against our children and grandchildren, so I support a balanced budget, but I also appreciate that the stress here (in the resolution) means that we are watching what they're doing with the budget control, and that education needs to be protected."

School districts across the country have already increased class sizes, narrowed curriculum offerings, cut professional development for teachers and other measures.

Los Lunas Schools has reduced administrative and educational staff, cut back on some less popular elective classes and after school activities among other budget trimming.

Further federal funding reductions through sequestration would be disastrous, Saiz said.

"They've got to cut the spending, because they're overrun," he said. "We're spending more than we have, but what this is asking is, 'Don't take it out of education.'"


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.