New Mexico K-12 Spending Sorely Lacking Transparency

When it comes to understanding and holding government accountable, the first requirement is transparency. The Rio Grande Foundation has been researching and analyzing government in New Mexico for a long time and has thus been among the State’s strongest supporters of transparency and open government.

It is awfully difficult to analyze government, let alone hold it accountable, without ready access to basic information like budgets and other statistics about the government entity in question.

This document looks at the Public Education Department (PED). As seen below from the screenshot taken of the “School Fact Sheet” page of PED’s website, basic information has not been updated for several years:

  • Dropout reports have not been posted since 2014-2015,
  • A variety of district enrollment has not been updated since 2009-2010;
  • Student/Teacher ratios have not been updated since 2011-2012;

This lack of updated information is troubling and frustrating for researchers looking to better-understand New Mexico’s public schools, but there is supposed to be a trove of additional information available at the New Mexico Sunshine Portal:

Unfortunately, when clicking on the “Local Education Providers” tab one will find that virtually no information is listed on the site.

The Sunshine Portal is not just supposed to have relevant information relating to New Mexico’s public schools available, it is the law.

SB 327 was sponsored by Sen. Sander Rue in 2011. It passed both houses unanimously. Among (but by no means limited to) the information that is specifically required under the law is:

  • the annual budgets of each district,
  • a directory of the local education provider’s employee positions by school name, title and salary;
  • monthly revenue by source;
  • an inventory of all real property owned by the local education provider.

As of December 11, 2017, none of this information was available.

While the Rio Grande Foundation has been going through individual school district websites to track down some of this information, the process has been slow and laborious and that’s just for New Mexico’s 10-largest school districts. The State has 89 school districts.

Said, Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “This law was passed in 2011. It is almost 2018 and this website’s information as it relates to K-12 spending is nearly useless. Combine that with the lack of information PED’s own website and local districts (with the notable exception of Albuquerque Public Schools) not publishing their budget data in a clear and usable fashion, the lack of transparency is shocking.”