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New Mexico Won't Join Lawsuit

Ohanian Comment: This convoluted thinking sounds more more allegiance to politics than to principle.

New Mexico spends more than it receives from the federal government as it attempts to meet the mandates required by the No Child Left Behind Act, state Education Secretary Veronica Garcia says.

How much more, Garcia wouldn't say.

"I think it's significant," she noted in a recent interview, "but we won't have the data until we scrub the numbers."

Nevertheless, New Mexico - one of 17 states currently studying the costs of the controversial education law - won't join other states and the nation's largest teachers union in a lawsuit challenging the federal law, Garcia said.

Entering the legal battle would be a waste of time and money that should be spent to improve schools across the state, Garcia said.

Besides, she added, the spirit and intent of No Child Left Behind - to improve student academic performance and close the achievement gap between students from poor neighborhoods and students in more affluent areas - are good.

"We're going to work within the system and apply for the flexibility we need" from the federal government, she said. "We're not at any point considering entering the lawsuit."

The National Education Association and school districts in Vermont, Texas and Michigan filed a federal lawsuit last week to force the government to pay the costs of implementing No Child Left Behind.

The lawsuit claims there has been a $27 billion shortfall in federal funding since 2002 when the law was enacted.

"The day has finally arrived when parents, public school employees and school districts are saying, `No m s' to the untenable and unfunded mandates," said Eduardo Holguin, president of NEA-New Mexico.

"For New Mexico, it means precious state and local funds are being spent to cover the costs of increased paperwork, bureaucracy and ever-growing bills from big testing companies to the tune of millions of dollars each year," he said.

New Mexico receives about $247 million, which is directed to schools in impoverished neighborhoods based on families qualified for free and reduced-price lunches.

Under No Child Left Behind, states could lose funding for failure to comply. New Mexico cannot afford to lose the funding, Garcia said.

"I'm excited about working with (U.S. Department of Education) Secretary (Margaret) Spellings about refinements" in No Child Left Behind, she said.

Garcia will serve on a committee that will deal with how students with limited English skills are measured under the law. She also wants to serve on a committee that will develop a growth model for academic achievement in math and reading. The model would measure third-graders' performance in the spring of their fourth-grade year.

Flexibility for schools in how they measure the progress of special education students is being developed by another committee at the federal level, she said.

— Susie Gran
Albuquerque Tribune


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