Senate bill seeks to justify ed co-ops

Sarah Meyer, Freedom New Mexico

A Senate Memorial sponsored by Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, promises to help small school districts in New Mexico.

Senate Memorial 41 authorizes a study to verify the standing of Regional Education Cooperatives as “local educational agencies,” said Patti Harrelson, director of REC 6.

The legal standing would help the regional cooperatives when it comes to applying for federal grants and in obtaining state discretionary funds, she said.

The RECs began in 1984 to help provide services to special education students. Since then, the nine RECs have evolved to provide a wide variety of services to their members.

REC 6 includes Logan, San Jon, Melrose, House, Fort Sumner, Floyd, Texico, Elida and Dora school districts.

Among the many services the REC provides:

Hiring personnel who serve more than one school, including a nurse, counselor, technology person, diagnostician and speech-language pathologist.

Human resources
Billing for Medicaid
Professional development

“We try to break up the expense so not one district is responsible for the entire salary because they can’t afford it,” Harrelson said. “We pool our dollars to get more bang for our buck.”

Until recently, the nine RECs received funding — about $1 million per year divided among them — from the state’s discretionary fund, Harrelson explained. Then their legal status came into question, which made them ineligible for this funding source.

This year, the Legislature authorized $1.4 million, divided among the RECs, from the permanent fund.

However, with status as a local educational agency, the RECs will be an authorized fiscal agent, said Harrelson.

“We will be entitled to handle grants and be eligible for discretionary funds,” she said. “The money can pass through us.”

The superintendents of each REC meet monthly, operating as a managerial board, Harrelson said.

“We do whatever they decide,” she said.

Regarding the memorial, Kernan said, “I think it’s a good thing that we’re doing because we need to help our rural schools. I hope they come up with a good solution.”