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Feature: Budget Cuts and Their Affect on Gallup McKinley County
By Raechelle Sandoval '18
Budget cuts. Something seen in everyday life, they help to save money and reduce underspending. Your family may be making a few budget cuts to save money for Christmas and the new year. A company may make budget cuts to increase profit. But what happens when schools that seem to already be underfunded face federal budget cuts?
The 2018 Fiscal Year (FY) has begun. This means that Congress had to pass the budget for the year, including the education budget, which affects all students in America, including the students of Gallup McKinley County. This year's budget comes with multiple cuts in education funding. These include cuts to Education for the Disadvantaged programs to help low income students, School Improvement programs which falls under multiple grants, 21st Century Learning Centers for out-of-school hours, Innovation and Improvement programs, American History and Civics Academies, School Leader Recruitment and Support which has little national impact according to the budget, Magnet School Assistance which awards competitive grants to fund and open magnet schools, Arts in Education which will receive no funding, Safe Schools and Citizenship Education, Promise Neighborhoods which provides grant to aid troubled neighborhoods, IDEA National Activities Program which provides support for states early intervention and education of disabled children, and Technical Assistance and Dissemination which funds technical assistance, demonstration projects, and information dissemination. In McKinley County, the cuts to Education for the Disadvantaged programs, and 21st Century Learning Centers may cause the biggest issues.
According to the Gallup McKinley County 2012-2022 Five Year Facilities Master Plan Update, 92.3% of students were economically disadvantaged during the 2015-16 school year. This means that the $190,000,000 cut to the Education for the Disadvantaged Programs, compared to the 2017 fiscal year budget, is likely to cause big issues. These programs provide funding to provide additional instruction and supplies to teach students that are disadvantaged. This is meant to help raise test scores for these disadvantaged students so they are on par with other students. The programs also help to fund after school tutoring that many students rely on to pass and some schools may rely on to rise test grades. Without this funding schools may see multiple drops in test scores and regular class grades, especially in the lower grades. Because of this, Gallup McKinley County overall scores could drop dramatically. This could also affect the teachers and staff who participate in these programs, as they are often paid more to do so. These teachers may also have to focus more on the students who are more likely to fall behind and less on students who are likely to succeed. This could cause more advanced students to fall behind. This could also create a drop in test scores. On level students may also fall behind, creating more below average students that drop overall grades.
21st Century Learning Centers are federally funded programs that take place before and after school, and during the summer, and are facing a $191,673,000 cut from the 2017 fiscal year budget. There is no recent data on how many GMCS students attend these programs, but many of you may remember staying for after school programs in elementary and or middle school. These programs focus on high-poverty schools, and as mentioned before, a large majority of GMCS students face poverty. Many students stay to receive tutoring, while others might use it as a place to stay until their parents get out of work. This budget cut may mean that there are fewer after-school programs being funded to support these students. This could also mean less schools will have these programs, possibly causes a decrease in test scores and grades do to the lack of extra instructional time these students will receive.
Some of the money taken from the programs can be seen going to Charter School Grants. Charter Schools are public schools that operate outside of the county school system. They are aimed to raise student achievement without the restrictions public schools in the system face. This, along with the fact that they are tuition-free, unlike private schools, create an appeal with parents and student alike. Within the Gallup McKinley County School borders there are two charter schools. These schools are Six Directions Indigenous School and Middle College High School. A third charter school, Uplift Community School closed at the end of last school year due to not getting rechartered. This does not leave many options for students, as charter schools have limits on how many students they can take based on various factors. This means not all students will have the opportunity to go to the school that is receiving more adequate funding. Those who do not make it into these schools will be stuck in public schools with questionable funding. This increase in funding for charter schools may cause an increase in charter schools in the area. But if there is no increase, students will lose out on the funding they need to succeed in their education because of the funding pulled from county schools to fund the alternative.
While researching how Gallup McKinley County Schools will be affected by these budget cuts, this reporter emailed the United States Public Education Department and did not get a response. She also emailed the New Mexico Public Education Department. Upon receiving my email, the department contacted Gallup McKinley County Schools Central Office. Gallup High Principal Dominic Romero then received an email from an Assistant Superintendent at Central Office. They asked to speak to Mr. Romero about the email I sent to the New Mexico Public education Department. My email that they wanted to discuss was sent as follows:
“I am a journalist for the Gallup High School newspaper, Ambush! News. I am writing a story on how budget cuts will affect our local school district. I was hoping you would give me a comment on how you will see the budget cuts affecting our area. Thank you.”
From that point, I was only allowed to contact the person who emailed Mr. Romero. I emailed them asking about the issue, they replied asking for clarification, stating they were not aware of which budget cuts I was referring to. I have not received a response since I clarified my question. Because of the lack of allowed contact, along with the lack of response, I did not have a large amount of information to use. Although budgets are public information, many sources do not actually state how these funds will be used.
This extreme action rises the question of what about my email caused them to react this way. Is there information they do not want to be leaked? Do they not want students and families to know how schools are allocating their money? Are they using the money in ways they do not want revealed? Or is it simply odd to have a high schooler asking for information on the budget? This lack of communication and the communication restrictions set on me create more questions than answers for this story.
Without more information from those allocating the funding, it is hard to predict how the students will be affected. There are many possibilities, including the possibility that schools will find a way to spread the money. There is also the possibility they will pull money from various places to make up for the loss. These places may include sports funds, performing arts funds, funds to supply new materials such as textbooks, calculators, and other equipment, or funds to supply art and industrial tech supplies for classes such as woodshop and metal shop. This could mean students involved in clubs and sports will have to fundraise even more money, when many are already fighting tooth and nail to raise enough money with the funding they have now. The absence of Arts in Education funding could add to this issue, as the usual money allocated for arts will have to come from somewhere else.
New Mexico’s 2018 fiscal year budget has not been passed according to my contact in their last email asking for clarification. Because of this, we do not know how New Mexico will be allocating any money they have. We will not know how each schools programs will truly be affected until this information is released. Once this is released, we will see exactly what funds will be lacking, along with what funds will have to be made up through fundraising. Until we can see this, students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike will be left to wonder what we will have money for in the coming year. This makes it hard for club sponsors, coaches, teachers, and administrators to plan for the coming year.
The 2018 Fiscal Year budget can be found on Congress’s official website, the first link listed will take directly to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2018.
Last Week's Poll Results!
For our last poll we asked Ambush! Poll takers what student vs. staff contest they would like to see most: 100% of poll takers said they wanted to see a hot dog eating contest.