NM Public Schools Are Missing 12K Students and They Want Them Back. Is It All About the Money?
by Linnea Johnson
Public schools have had a chance to evaluate student attendance data and have found “missing students” between the Spring and Fall semesters of this school year. You might ask why they are concerned about this fact. Is it because they are concerned about students who are not getting an education? Is it because they feel the need to “protect” those students?
Or, is it because they will lose money without students in attendance? It may be some of each, but the last question could be the primary motivation for state public education departments to do a canvas of attendance over the Fall semester.
And of course, don’t forget indoctrination. That’s a lot more difficult when the kids are being educated outside “the system.”
Why do public education departments care so much? Follow the money.
Public schools receive their funding from a number of sources, most of which comes from the local (44%) and state (48%) property taxes. Federal government (8%) funding is designated to serve disadvantaged populations, including families in poverty, students who have special needs, a student population of English language learners, and teacher quality improvement programs, seen in the form of grants. (Source)
Each state has its own funding formula, but in my state, the money is allocated by the legislature and based upon a number of factors, the largest of which is student enrollment.
Well, as you can imagine, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on student enrollment and attendance. Many of the school districts in my state elected to do school entirely online. As a result, some parents have decided to homeschool, others don’t have reliable internet and their children cannot consistently attend online classes, and others may have left the state as their jobs evaporated with the lockdowns.
What drives getting students back into the system?
The NM Public Education Department (PED) wants to know where they’ve gone and wants to woo them back with a program called Engage NM. Now, this program sounds quite altruistic and is funded through a partnership with NM PED and Graduation Alliance. Graduation Alliance operates primarily in New Mexico, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Washington, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and some school districts in Texas. Its aim is to enroll students who have dropped out of school into their accredited online program. That’s an interesting twist. Why would a public education department promote enrolling its own students in an out-of-state program that is free of charge?
In an article posted on KOAT, the New Mexico Public Education Department reveals, over 12,000 of students enrolled in the spring, have now “gone missing,” and with them the funding they generated.
“We’ve had a chance to cross reference the data when it comes to student rosters,” said NMPED cabinet secretary Ryan Stewart.
PED leaders said there are about 330,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in New Mexico, but they estimate more than 12,000 have stopped attending class during the pandemic.
“We know that not every family has reported to the Public Education Department or if they’ve taken their student out of the public education setting,” Stewart said.
As part of a program called Engage New Mexico, PED is trying to track down these students to get them back to class in the Spring. PED is partnering with groups like CYFD and the Graduation Alliance.
“Next steps is identifying and supporting these students to make sure they are in the proper educational setting through direct outreach, through cross checking our database of information,” Stewart said.
Through Engage New Mexico, students will get an academic coach, help connecting to resources, and help with a plan to get on track and finish the year strong.
“We’re also looking to leverage our local contacts and our community relationships to find and support these students,” Stewart said.
PED officials said their goal is not to punish students, but to meet their promise to educate every New Mexican child.
How are your tax dollars being spent?
This begs the question, where does Graduation Alliance get its funding? Is there a split of federal and state education dollars between your state public education department and Graduation Alliance? Does your state share your property tax dollars with a private online education entity? Why is Graduation Alliance the approved and free “online education” source? If Graduation Alliance can be free, why can’t an online curriculum you choose as a homeschooler be free, too?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but perhaps some of you do.
What do you think?
What do you think about this? Do you think those students are being homeschooled outside the system? What about groups like Graduation Alliance? Share your comments below.
Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business, and personal finance. She now works in technical business development with universities. She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, who went on to careers in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating a little urban farm, and traveling with her husband of 31 years.