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Oil and gas provides $1.37 billion to New Mexico schools despite COVID-19 market struggle

Carlsbad Current-Argus logo Carlsbad Current-Argus 12/22/2020 Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

Oil and gas contributed about $1.37 billion to public education in New Mexico, per a recent study from industry leaders for Fiscal Year 2020 – even as the state and world economy was ravaged by the COVID-19 heath crisis.

In Fiscal Year 2019, oil and gas contributed about $1.36 billion to public education in a year of record-breaking production led by the Permian Basin and a boom in hydraulic fracturing.

The pandemic brought on a slump in fuel demand which caused the value of oil to drop to historic lows, plummeting below $0 per barrel in April for the first time in history.

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But even during dire economic times, Ryan Flynn, director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which commissioned the study with the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, said New Mexico still saw high levels of production which he expected to continue in the coming years as the world recovers from the health crisis.

About $1.1 billion went to K-12 education, the study read, with $290.5 million going to higher education compared with $1.05 billion and $302 million in FY 2019, respectively.

Oil and gas provided about $60,000 per teacher and $3,788 per student.

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In total, the study showed the industry contributed about $2.8 billion in state revenue, compared with more than $3 billion in FY 2019, accounting for 33.5 percent of total state spending.

Flynn said that meant continued support for teacher salaries and school resources, for the benefit of New Mexico’s children.

“We’re the largest source of funding for education in New Mexico,” he said. “The industry plays a critical role. When our industry does well, children thrive, and schools have more resources. There’s a direct correlation.”

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In southeast New Mexico, industry leaders also sought to recruit more instructors to the region known for the highest oil and gas production in the state on the western edge of the Permian Basin.

The Permian Strategic Partnership (PSP) announced a partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the New Mexico National Board Certified Teacher Network focused on bringing board certified teachers to schools in Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico and Ector County in Texas.

The project was intended to increase teacher salaries, provide professional development opportunities and advance their careers, per a news release from the Partnership, aiming to strengthen recruitments efforts to rural areas that see high levels of oil and gas production.

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“The PSP seeks to accelerate educational improvements by supporting initiatives that expand and strengthen teacher talent available to Permian students, improve the professional development of educators and leaders, and equip school districts’ leadership with resources and partnerships for enhanced strategic planning, innovation and execution,” said PSP Chief Executive Officer Tracee Bentley.

“Our schools must have the resources to provide the next generation with access to highly qualified teachers and a robust curriculum.”

Through the program, about 5 percent of teachers in each district will be supported to pursue board certification – about 700 over the next three years.

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Board certification sees licensed teachers complete additional training beyond their teaching degree and license that can see them earn more pay and be eligible to teach in multiple states.

“Thousands of students across the region will have the benefit of being taught by teachers who have accepted the challenge to improve their teaching practice,” said Evelyn Sanchez, president of the New Mexico National Board Certified Teachers Network.

Counties in the southeast corner of the state, with the program focused on, also received millions in contributions for public education from oil and gas, the study read, but got less than major metropolitan areas which have larger populations and more schools.

Eddy County received about $38.6 million for education from oil and gas, or 27 schools, 11,653 students and 684 teachers.

Those dollars supported 16,572 jobs, about $1.3 billion in labor income and accounted for $3.8 billion added to the local economy.

Neighboring Lea County with a population of 71,070 had $48.4 million from oil and gas for 37 K-12 schools, 15,268 students and 844 teachers.

That meant 18,329 jobs were supported, along with $1.3 billion in labor income and $3.2 billion added to the economy.

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New Mexico’s most populous county Bernalillo, which contains Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, got the most from oil and gas for education with about $409.4 million for 212 K-12 schools, 96,737 students and 6,254 teachers.

Doña Ana County in the southwest had $185.24 million from oil and gas for 77 K-12 schools, 40,474 students and 2,499 teachers.

“Even if you have no interaction with the oil and gas industry, if that person has chosen to go to a public school, knows a teacher or cares about public education, they should care about oil and gas,” Flynn said.

He said he expected oil and gas production to remain high in New Mexico, even without the record-breaking numbers seen before the pandemic.

“People always say ‘boom, bust, boom, bust,’ but there’s really no truth to that,” Flynn said. “We’re in a sustained period of record production. $2.8 billion is not a bust. We’re doing this during one of the most difficult economic periods we’ve faced as an industry, and the industry is still delivering for the state.

“We’ve proven to be very resilient as an industry. The growth will just be more incremental.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Oil and gas provides $1.37 billion to New Mexico schools despite COVID-19 market struggle

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