New Mexico’s legislative session has commenced, which means our legislators are hard at work debating policy issues but their core responsibility during a 30-day session is passing a budget. Here’s everything you need to know about the education budget. 

New Mexico approaches its budget making process in a unique way, with both the Governor and the Legislature creating their own budget proposals. Each proposal is debated throughout the session, and eventually a new budget is created that is debated once again and eventually signed by the Governor. The education portion of the budget has an added layer of complexity as the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) also submits a budget proposal. 

In this blog, I’ll be breaking down the highlights of each budget proposal. You can also view a video recap on our Facebook page. We at NewMexicoKidsCAN will do our best to keep you updated on the budget making process as we move through the session. 

The Overall Education Budget

Proposals for the entire state budget range from $7.549 billion, proposed by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), to $7.68 billion, proposed by Governor Lujan-Grisham (Exec). Of that, approximately 45% or more is allocated to K-12 education. Here is a summary of the education proposals: 

Education Budget Proposal Increase from Prior Year Percent Increase from Prior Year
LESC $3.954 billion $343 million 10%
LFC $3.461 billion $210 million 6.50%
Exec $3.467 billion $216 million 6.60%

Changes to the At-Risk Unit Value

Debate continues over how best to address Judge Singleton’s ruling in the Yazzie Martinez lawsuit, but all three proposals are aligned in the belief that the “at-risk” unit value should be increased. 

As a refresher, To determine who is an “at-risk” student, New Mexico uses three criteria:

(1) Income, (2) English proficiency and (3) Mobility. The state then awards funding to school districts based on how many at-risk students they serve. This means that students from low socioeconomic areas, English learners and students who move often are provided additional funding through the formula. Here is a summary of the at-risk unit value proposals: 

Proposed Unit Value Increase from Current
Current 0.25
LESC 0.30 0.05
LFC 0.27 0.02
Exec 0.30 0.05

Educator Pay Increases 

Educator pay increases are always a popular discussion in the roundhouse, especially when the state has a large budget surplus. Last year, the budget increased salary minimums and provided a raise to educators. This year’s proposals make no changes to salary minimums but all three provide varying levels of pay increases: 

Proposed Salary Increase Cost of Increases
LESC 6% average (min 3%) $153 million
LFC 3% average $69.6 million
Exec 4% average $92.3 million

It’s important to note the difference between “average” and “minimum” in the language. “Averaging language” means that a district can allocate raises however they see fit, as long as the average percent increase matches that of the bill language. Stated more clearly, it means that it is possible that some educators may see increases higher or lower than the proposed amount. The LESC requires that every educator see at least a 3% increase, while mandating a 6% average increase. The LFC and Exec recommendations have no required minimum increase.

The LFC is also proposing an additional $36.75 million to be used to increase salaries for special education, bilingual/ELL, and mentor teachers. They propose an average 6% increase for special education and bilingual/ELL educators, and an average 4% increase for mentor educators. This would be in addition to the base salary increase noted above. 

K-5 Plus & Extended Learning 

Last year the legislature allocated $120 million for K-5 Plus (an optional program that extends the school year for elementary schools by 25 days) and $62 million for the new Extended Learning Program which provides funding for schools to add an additional 10 days. Here’s how each budget proposal addresses these two programs: 

K-5 Plus Extended Learning Flexibility
FY 20 Proposal $120 million $62 million
LESC $120 million $86 million Up to $25 million of unused K5 Plus funds can be used for Extended Learning
LFC $120 million $71 million Up to $35 million of unused K5 Plus funds can be used for Extended Learning
Exec $120 million $62 million Funds can be used for K5 Plus or Extended Learning interchangeably

In all three proposals any unused funds revert to the Public Education Reform Fund. 


As we called out in our “A Test of Resolve” Report, when states make changes to their assessments, it usually comes with an increased cost. While both the LESC and LFC propose to keep assessment costs flat, the executive proposes to increase the budget for assessment by $2 million, a 33% increase from the prior year. 

FY20 Budget Proposed Budget Percent Increase
LESC $6 million $6 million
LFC $6 million $6 million
Exec $6 million $8 million 33.33%

Below the Line Budget

In New Mexico, education funding is distributed three ways, above the line, middle of the line, and below the line. 

Above the line: these are funds generated through the funding formula, based on the students a district serves. The money can be used for any educational expense. 

Middle of the line: these are allocations for specific goods or services and can only be spent on those things. Some examples are transportation and instructional materials. 

Below the line: These funds are managed by the Public Education Department and are used to support specific initiatives of the department. Previous below the line initiatives include Reads to Lead, Attendance Coaches and Principals Pursuing Excellence. 

Above the Line % Increase Below the Line % Increase
FY 20 Budget $3 billion $26.8 million
LESC $3.34 billion 9.2% $41.3 million 53.7%
LFC $3.24 billion 5.3% $33 million 22.8%
Exec $3.24 billion 5.3% $52.2 million 94.6%

I hope you found this brief overview of the budget helpful! If you have any follow up questions, feel free to send an email or a message via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and we’ll do our best to get you an answer. 

Stay tuned for more updates!

Amanda is the founding executive director of NewMexicoKidsCAN and an alumna of the 50CAN Education Advocacy Fellowship. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


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