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Report Says Despite Influx Of Cash Special Education Outcomes Not Improving in New Mexico

The Children's Statue at Roundhouse.
Kevin Meerschaert
The Children's Statue at Roundhouse.

According toa new progress report presented to the Legislative Finance Committee on Tuesday, despite major increases in funding the past several years, outcomes in Special Education in New Mexico have not shown any significant improvements.

In New Mexico public schools, one out of every five students receives special education because they are identified as having a disability or being gifted. 

According to the report special education enrollment has grown by ten-percent in the past decade  particularly among students with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia.  

Meanwhile, per-pupil funding for students in special education has increased 60 percent. In FY24, public schools will receive around $716 million in state funding and $119 million in federal funding for a total of $835 million for special education to serve roughly 68 thousand students in special education statewide.  

But the increase has not corresponded with improved student outcomes, and New Mexico remains in the bottom third of states for special education student proficiency measures.
There are many factors noted as possible reasons.

 Legislative Finance Committee Program Evaluator Sarah Rovang says one is that New Mexico Public Schools have about 13-hundred teachers with a Special Education License teaching general education while there are hundreds of special education vacancies.

“The state has made significant strides for the increase in teacher compensation but this has not translated into the ability to fill those special education vacancies,” she said. “The findings are clear. Public schools are not fully leveraging their available funding for special education. Further, the current special education teacher shortage is less about the lack of licensed teachers and more about the inability to attract teachers with multiple licenses to teach in special education.”

The report also says the Public Education Department's investigations frequently reveal non-compliance within school districts and charter schools concerning special education law.  

 Most complaints revolve around the Individualized Education Plan process, and there is a disproportionate rate of informal removals for students with disabilities, signaling the need for more robust oversight and standardized practices.               

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