I can’t lie – I was pretty pissed off when I first heard of the Albuquerque Public Schools cheese sandwich debacle a few months ago.
Growing up in Southeastern New Mexico as a child in a low-income family, I know how it feels to have to eat a free lunch and be scorned by other students for not being able to pay for it. Yet, APS took it to a whole other level when it began punishing students because their parents didn’t pay their lunch tab.
Yet, now we just learned from APS Superintendent Winston Brooks that the district had money to cover the lunch debt all along. In fact, the $140,000 lunch debt reported by the district seems rather insignificant when compared to the $16 million that APS just “discovered.”
But this is not to say that that the lunch debt is the biggest issue here. It just automatically came to mind because this “discovery” of money could have led to many APS children eating healthier and not being degraded as a result of eating the “poor kids” lunch.
Let’s face it…
we live in the second-poorest state in the U.S. – so it is inevitable that our public schools must deal practically yet compassionately with the issues confronting low-income children in our state.
The bigger issue is what APS could have been doing with this money for the past ten years. Sure, it’s great that APS can put $10 million back into it’s budget and have an additional $6 million to hopefully spend responsibly for the good of their students.
But – correct me if I’m wrong – APS seems to have a continuous problem associated with budget cuts. It just seems like they never have enough money to stop them from cutting staff positions and great programs like art and music.
And here we are, with $16 million popping up out of nowhere, a shocking sum that Winston Brooks hopes everyone will greet with rose-colored glasses as a simple accounting error.
I, for one, don’t buy it. And even if it’s true; it just adds another layer of unreliability and poor management to the constant storm surrounding APS.
I think it’s essential that city and state administrations use our taxpayer dollars to benefit us (and our children) in the most effective way, especially during these rough economic times. I am positive that if this $16 million had been in place all along, APS could have retained more staff and better served students’ basic educational needs, not to mention add or expand programs like art and music that contribute greatly to their growth and development.
There’s so much to be said about news of this APS “discovery.” But more than anything, I hope that the next news I hear from APS is about the great things they are doing with that extra $6 million dollars. The same goes for the stimulus funding they will be receiving any day now.
Taxpayer dollars go a long way for the students of New Mexico; let’s use those funds to take them to great places.