Abby is from Albuquerque and is co-owner of The Paper. She is also an experienced education attorney who eats, sleeps and breathes public education.

The 2022 New Mexico legislative session starts Tuesday, Jan. 18. ??? According to a June 2021 report from New Mexico Voices for Children, “Nearly half of the state’s annual budget [is] allocated to K-12 education.” So how are K-12 traditional public and public charter schools in New Mexico funded?

Most funding for New Mexico public schools comes from state revenue: money from various things such as oil and gas rents and royalties and permanent fund investment earnings. Once these monies are appropriated by the Legislature for K-12 public education, it is then the job of the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) to allocate and distribute it to public school districts. (School districts in New Mexico includes charter schools, which are required by state law to be public schools.)

The PED uses various formulas and methods for this allocation, such as State Equalization Guarantee or “SEG.” According to PED, “SEG is the largest state distribution” to school districts and accounts “for more than 90 percent of school districts’ operational revenue.”

So let’s take a look at SEG. The intent of SEG is to “equalize” the funding a district gets so that no matter where in New Mexico a child lives, they have equal access to a free, quality public education. To ensure equal access and avoid inequities in funding, SEG is actually a formula made up of many other formulas. These formulas take into account data, such as a district’s specific number of students who are economically disadvantaged or the number of students in need of special education. SEG then applies this data as multipliers so that more funds go to districts with higher-need students.

At least that is how it is supposed to work. SEG is only as good as the amount of money that goes into it and the formulas used to allocate that money. If those amounts or formulas are insufficient, the result cannot be sufficient to ensure equal access and avoid inequity. This, in short, is the basis for Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico.

New Mexico public schools also receive federal funding designed to ensure equal access and reduce inequities. These funds are not operational like SEG funds but rather earmarked for specific purposes like free and reduced school lunches. ??? A New Mexico court recently said the way the PED was allocating a certain federal fund to school districts wasn’t as it was supposed to be. It ordered the PED to distribute federal Impact Aid money it had originally kept for agency expenses.

These scant 500 words are not intended to be exhaustive and instead focus on most major sources of funding. For more resources and information visit the New Mexico Voices for Children website (nmvoices.org/) to read the report. For an even deeper dive, spend some quality time reading reports and presentations on the websites of the Public Education Department (webnew.ped.state.nm.us/) and of the New Mexico Legislative Education Study (nmlegis.gov/Entity/LESC/Default) and Legislative Finance Committees (nmlegis.gov/Entity/LFC/Default).