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Criticism of Albuquerque middle school sports cuts grows

Apr 20, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico education officials on Thursday joined the chorus of people who are criticizing Albuquerque Public Schools for proposing to cut to middle school sports next year. Deputy Public Education Secretary Paul Aguilar issued a statement saying parents deserve to know that pay for the district's top administrators has increased dramatically in just five years and now tops $4 million. He also said there are now 35 administrators at the district who earn six figures, nearly double the number in 2011 despite a drop in enrollment. "APS would rather pay more money for over-bloated bureaucracy than fund athletics for our children. That is unacceptable," he said. "They need to get their priorities straight, and they can start by cutting fat from the top." District spokeswoman Monica Armenta did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment. The latest criticism comes on the heels of a meeting Wednesday at which teachers, coaches, parents and students showed their opposition. The cuts are part of the district's plan for its projected $25 million budget reduction. Other cuts include reduced employee work days, bigger classes and a heavier high school schedule. "We have laid all of our cards on the table and many people don't like the hand they are being dealt," Superintendent Raquel Reedy said during Wednesday's meeting. "Process, that's what all of this is. We will continue to be honest and transparent, even when what we have to say isn't popular. But we'll also continue to listen, work together, gather input, answer questions and address concerns." The district needs to make a better effort at finding creative solutions to the problem, including using its reserve money, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation said. "We really could avoid all these cuts," Albuquerque High School teacher Mary Kelly said. State officials said Thursday that the district has more than $80 million in cash balances that it could tap to avoid eliminating middle school sports. The district pulled from reserves to cover spending reductions during the current fiscal year and said it would be reckless to use more of those funds, risking a credit downgrade and higher borrowing costs. Former Grant Middle School principal Edgar Briggs said he has seen failing students turn their lives around thanks to an after-school sports program that might be dropped. "There are life-defining aspects to the mentorship they get," he said. "They build self-discipline, and kids need that foundation."