Shrinking grant affects staffing

By Lillian Bowe
Staff writer
lbowe@pntonline.com

For the past five years, Portales schools Federal Programs Director Henry Montano has seen a decrease of funds for the schools’ biggest grant, Title I.
Title I provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Portales schools use the Title 1 funding to help elementary students with intervention programs, which help students that are behind in a subject.
Montano said 90 percent of the money from Title 1 is used for teachers’ salaries. This year the school received $935,000 which was a $40,000 decrease from last year’s award.
Montano said the decrease amounts to the salary of a first-year teacher.

The intervention programs have teachers that are paid with Title I funding. Montano said they have lost four teachers due to funding cuts over the last five years.
“The program used to cover kindergarten through eighth grade, but now we are just focusing on the lower grades,” Montano said.
If the losses continue, Montano said they may have to cut more teachers.

Title 1 losses have also effected how much schools and teachers can spend on supplemental material that provide extra support for the core standards they are teaching.
Montano said the loss can be contributed to new charter schools in the state which take some of the money set for Title 1.
When Montano presented the losses to the Portales Municipal School Board in June, Superintendent Johnnie Cain said he was concerned.
“I’m concerned that the grant will continue to lose money,” Cain told the board.

Montano said the grant may lose more money if more charter schools open in the state, because charter schools are higher priority for Title 1 funds.
Another grant that has experienced losses is the Title 2 grant, which is used for professional development for teachers and administrators.
Professional development involves sending teachers and principals to trainings.

“Even though we have lost some of the money here, we have been creative in providing professional development for our teachers,” Montano said.
Montano said the other grants the schools have received have lost some money, but not as significantly as Title 1 or 2 grants and some of them are leveling off.
“I think Title 1 will level off, but you never know,” Montano said.