Family Income Index Legislation Receives Final Passage, $30 Million Appropriation


The New Mexico House of Representatives gave final legislative approval late Friday to a measure establishing the Family Income Index, an innovative strategy to direct additional funding to schools with concentrated poverty.

Following the 52-18 vote in the full House, the measure goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be signed. It was one of her priority bills. The measure passed the Senate 35-6 on March 13.

“The Family Income Index addresses inequities in our educational system by directing additional funds to schools in economically disadvantaged communities,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Schools with many economically disadvantaged families have students who are less likely than their peers to score well on tests, earn high grades, graduate from high school and succeed in college. This innovative new tool will level the playing field for so many students who deserve the opportunity to succeed.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department first proposed a Family Income Index in December as a partnership with the Taxation and Revenue and Human Services departments. Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque championed the idea and introduced it as Senate Bill 17. Reps. G. Andres Romero and Patricia Lundstrom marshaled the bill through the House.

Research has shown that concentrated poverty complicates learning and teaching and creates and sustains disparities in academic outcomes.

“The need is great, and resources are limited. That’s why it’s critical to target extra funding to the schools where it is most needed. We are grateful to Senator Stewart and to the full Legislature for passing the Family Income Index,” the education secretary said.

The bill would allow the Public Education Department to use data from the other two agencies to calculate the household income of every New Mexico public school student. If neither the Taxation and Revenue nor Human Services department has relevant data on a student’s family,   U.S. census income statistics for the student’s reported address would be used instead.

The agency then would calculate for every school the percentage of students in five income categories ranging from above average to extremely low, resulting in a ranked list of schools with the highest populations of low-income students. Per the legislation, “very low income” means a household income greater than 75% but less than 130% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that equals a maximum income of about $34,000 per year.

For fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1, the Family Income Index for each public school would be the sum of the percentages of the school’s students in the extremely low and very low income categories during the preceding fiscal year. After that, two- and then three-year averages would be used.

The Legislature will appropriate funding for the Family Income Index each year, and that amount will be divided proportionally among eligible schools, with a minimum of $20,000 per school.

Schools receiving more than $40,000 would have to divide it between reading, math and other interventions. Schools receiving less than $40,000 can spend it on any of the interventions that have been shown to improve student outcomes — for example, hiring school counselors and social workers; creating family information and resource centers; adopting culturally and linguistically diverse classroom texts; offering innovative professional learning opportunities for educators and after-school enrichment programs for students.