New Mexico lawmakers want equal funding for deaf, hard of hearing students

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers say New Mexico‘s schools for the deaf get almost $100,000 more in funding per student than other schools around the state that also serve students who are deaf or hard of hearing. A bipartisan bill is asking the New Mexico Public Education Department to make it fairer.

Rafe Martinez is the executive director of the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy. He says his charter school is like any other public school. “We receive funding through the state’s SEG funding the State Equalization Guarantee the education funding formula based on special ed designations. There’s nothing specific to deaf ed in the way we receive funding from our deaf students,” said Martinez.

State lawmakers say deaf or hard of hearing students who go to these charter or public schools don’t get the same amount of funding the students at the New Mexico Schools for the Deaf get, that’s because they’re under two different funding formulas. “There is a significant difference in the amount of funding you receive if you’re a child attending on campus of the New Mexico School for the Deaf or if you are a child hard of hearing or deaf in the rest of the state of New Mexico,” said Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-Grant, Hidalgo, and Sierra).

To break it down, the School for the Deaf has about 100 students each year compared to the roughly 670 students with hearing impairments at public schools around the state. The state gives public schools about $12,000 for each hearing impaired student. The School for the Deaf gets about $160,000 for each student.

So a proposed House Bill 237 is asking the NMPED to evaluate the funding formula differences and how to make distributions equal for all hearing impaired or deaf students. “The intent is to have dollars go to the students and that there is equal distribution of those dollars,” Rep. Dow said.

For Martinez, who has a deaf child, he says he just wants the funding to be the same for all deaf or hearing impaired students, no matter where they are in the state. “This is not about our little school specifically, its about so there’s equitable funding for all deaf, hard of hearing children statewide; That aren’t under the umbrella of the New Mexico school for the deaf,” said Martinez.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the School for the Deaf but did not get a response but Monday is a holiday. The bipartisan bill is not scheduled yet to be heard in a committee.