GALLUP – Leaders of the Central Consolidated School District and Navajo Nation commend lawmakers in New Mexico for approving a bill to divert federal funds received from the state for Impact Aid.
House Bill 6 would change the distribution method for Impact Aid from a system where funds are pooled and then distributed to all public schools to a system where funds are only sent to underserved schools, including those that are mostly Native American students to serve.
Impact Aid is a federal program to support school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to tax-exempt federal assets such as reservation land or military bases.
CCSD receives Impact Aid because it is 98% Navajo nation land and owns about 2% of taxable property, according to the district.
The bill was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before the legislature ended on March 20. It is awaiting the signature of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
CCSD called the state legislature approval a “game changer” as it could potentially restore about $ 15 million in the district, which would benefit students and improve facilities and infrastructure.
“We applaud these advocates of our children for helping us correct this historical injustice and we urge the governor to sign HB 6,” Superintendent Daniel Benavidez said in a press release.
Benavidez thanked state officials and senators for supporting the move, as well as officials from Gallup and Zuni school districts and leaders of the Navajo Nation and Pueblo governments.
Benavidez mentioned that the state’s inadequacy to fund schools for Native American students was found in Yazzie Martinez’s education lawsuit and House Bill 6 as “rights wrong” in the way CCSD was funded.
Gary Montoya, president of the district’s education committee, added that the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the cause by exposing “sad shortcomings” in technology and internet access for students studying remotely.
“HB 6 will help the district transform the challenges CCSD students face into opportunities for enhanced learning and a foundation for success both as students and throughout their adult lives,” said Montoya.
The President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, and Vice President, Myron Lizer, also praised the passage.
“The Navajo Nation, along with other tribes in New Mexico, has been campaigning for this change for years so that school districts with high Native American students can receive the full benefits of state Impact Aid. We are optimistic that Governor Lujan Grisham will sign it They put the measure into law, “Nez said in a statement.
Noel Lyn Smith reports on the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at email@example.com.
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