A $112 million increase in the state’s public education system means changes in testing, more funds for early childhood education, a 1 percent raise for employees and keeping up with rises in insurance costs, according to Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview.
Woods, who is a member of the Senate’s education committee, said the money wasn’t enough to fill the all of the system’s needs but they pushed for what they could budge.
“Teachers need larger increases than that,” Woods said.
Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, described this legislative session as being regressive in education reform but he says that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Not a lot actually passed in the way of reform, I’m pretty reform-minded but this might actually be a year where reforms are not enacted,” said Roch, who’s district encompasses Roosevelt and Curry counties. “This might be a good thing for schools, it actually gives us time to implement with fidelity what we’re already being asked to do.”
Woods served on Grady’s school board before, but the rookie senator said realized through his committee assignment there is no-one-size-fits all approach to education, yet their goals are to graduate more students and improve testing.
He said the increase in funding to public education will hopefully address those issues.
“We try to focus a lot of money on how we test students,” Woods said. “We’re trying to increase the technology in school for that. It’s a very hard thing to do because every school system has a different degree of technology.”
Woods said his experience was an eye-opener on how much he didn’t know about the education system of the state.
“We’re trying to figure out why our graduation rate is so low,” Woods said, “and also trying to figure out why students have to take so many remedial classes when they get to college. The more I learned about education, the more I realized I didn’t know.”
Roch said money was also increased on the beginning end of education for a program called K-3 Plus, which allows schools to extend the school year to work with younger students on a more personal basis to improve reading and other essential skills.
Roch said the program has been available to schools with high percentages of low-income students, but has now been extended to schools with D and F grades.
“I think it’s a pretty good investment,” Roch said.
As far as legislation, Roch said a senate bill he thinks will likely get vetoed is one that would get rid of the state’s A-F grading system for schools and will allow a legislative council to create a new system then have the Public Education Department enact it.
“I don’t believe the governor will sign that,” Roch said.
He feels the system currently in place rewards schools for growth, is easy for people to understand and tries to capture the differences of the many school districts in the state.
Woods said there was a bill passed that would require home schoolers to take public classes in areas where their parents may not be suited to teach.
“It’s just to help a kid get a better education,” Woods said.
He added that those students would be counted for enrollment in those schools where they would take classes.
“Education is the key to prosperity and a productive society,” Woods said. “It’s the most valuable resource of the nation and we’re failing those kids in someway.”