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LCPS board concerns reach tipping point with midnight budget vote

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Michelle Granger and Carrie Tafoya

Once again, the LCPS Board votes on a critically important proposal — the $600M budget — in the middle of the night . This budget is a point of interest for every parent and employee in the district. Yet, at midnight, during the sixth hour of the board meeting, our elected board voted to approve the 2023 budget.

They made this decision despite voiced concerns from teachers that the money is not being used to benefit students/staff. They made this decision despite a lack of transparency and discussion with parents. They made this decision despite concerns from the staff who maintain facilities and hardly make enough to support their own families. The board made this decision even though board president Ray Jaramillo admitted that they had failed to do a good job of developing a budget that took into consideration the concerns and needs of staff/students.

The budget discussion was scheduled for a vote on the last board meeting of the semester, which included three-plus hours of student and teacher awards. The scene at the board meeting was chaotic.This chaos was not created by the dozens of teachers lining the streets in protest, nor the hundreds of school students packed into the lobby. No, it was the board’s lack of planning, transparency and ability to communicate that created the chaos. Once again, decisions that impact every teacher, student, parent, and staff member were made at the end of a very long meeting. Even Vice President Teresa Tenorio noted that making this decision ‘under the cover of night’ was going to look bad.

Yet, after acknowledging that the district had not allocated a single penny more for mental health and psychological supports, the board voted to approve the budget. They did this when they seemed too exhausted to make a clear-headed decision and the community was fast asleep. In the past weeks we spent 10 hours at meetings to have only 5 minutes to speak. And yet we are still left with a calendar and a budget that we don’t think any students will benefit from.

This enormous budget was developed with a lack of community input. LCPS CFO Edward Ellison began his presentation to the board at 10:30 p.m. He gave a much more detailed presentation than he had at the required town hall the previous week. He then proceeded to blame parents and teachers for their lack of involvement. Ellison remarked that he doesn’t know what waiting a few more days was going to do except have ‘special interest groups’ pick at his budget.

The problem with this board and superintendent’s office is that they are in lockstep. There is no distinguishing from where one stops and the other starts. The board has shown time and again that they do not care what the public thinks. The administration is exhibiting a concerted disdain for stakeholders, like parents and teachers, which they refer to as ‘special interest groups.’ It is confusing why so many drastic changes are being made at such a rapid pace, especially considering the last two years our community has endured. It’s hard to see a lack of accountability with this board, especially as constituents who voted for and supported them in elections.

These meetings that are designed to go over four hours have a chilling effect on interested community members. The surveys that are sent out are utterly ignored. I am not sure how bad it’s going to get. One thing is for sure; this is the most dysfunctional board and administration we have had in recent memory. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better.

Michelle Granger and Carrie Tafoya are English professors at New Mexico State University. Both are parents of students at Las Cruces Public Schools.

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