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1-26-06 HB
SHORT TITLE Statewide Outdoor Classroom Program
SB 37
APPROPRIATION (dollars in thousands)
or Non-Rec
General Fund
(Parenthesis ( ) Indicate Expenditure Decreases)
Duplicates HB161
LFC Files
Responses Received From
Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)
Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD)
Public Education Department (PED)
Synopsis of Bill
Senate Bill 37, which makes an appropriation to the State Parks Division of the Energy, Minerals
and Natural Resources Department, of $250,000 from the general fund for expenditure in fiscal
year 2007 to support a statewide outdoor classroom program. Any unexpended or unencumbered
balance remaining at the end of the fiscal year 2007 shall revert to the general fund.
The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) notes that this legislation will provide
enhanced opportunities for New Mexican school children to visit and experience the facilities of
the State Parks Division of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Further
that the program is the outgrowth of a report prepared by the State Parks Division, and the Public
Education Department as required by Senate Joint Memorial 24, passed during the 2005 legisla-
tive session. DFA indicates that the $250,000 required to support the program will be recurring
general fund monies.
Senate Bill 37 – Page
The Public Education Department (PED) indicates that, while the appropriation is made to the
State Parks Division of EMNRD, there will be also be costs incurred by (PED) while assisting
EMNRD in the development of the teacher education training program, assisting in recruitment
of teachers and evaluation of the project. PED estimates of the time required to support this leg-
islation would be .20 Administrator A @ 25.495 per hour and benefits. The cost of time and
benefits would be $13,964. Monitoring the project would include travel @ .32 for 500 miles and
per diem for two nights at $85 for a total of $ 330. The total cost of the time, benefits and travel
to support this project will be $14,294.
As further background, EMNRD indicates that this legislation stems from a study prepared by
the State Parks Division (SPD) and the Public Education Department required by SJM 24, which
passed the Legislature in 2005. SJM 24 requested SPD and PED to evaluate opportunities for
collaboration. This study, Making New Mexico Schools Work Outdoors, as required by SJM 24,
was presented to the Legislative Education Study Committee in October 2005. Commenting on
the study, EMNRD observes:
SPD and PED found enormous potential for partnerships that can improve the education
of New Mexico’s children, benefit state parks, and better serve the state in general. The
joint study cites recent research indicating outdoor, interactive education can increase
student test scores, reduce discipline problems, build citizenry skills and resource stew-
ardship ethics, and increase teacher job satisfaction.
Each of the 34 state parks is potential outdoor classroom, encompassing a variety of
natural and cultural resource themes, positioned for a hands-on, interdisciplinary ap-
proach. In 2005, however, only 5 percent of New Mexico’s K-12 students visited state
parks as part of their school program. This situation reflects great unrealized potential
as 80 percent of schools are within 30 minutes of a state park.
The SJM 24 study recommended the establishment of the “New Mexico Outdoor Class-
room” initiative, the mission of which is: “State Parks and PED will improve academic
achievement and encourage resource stewardship by engaging New Mexico’s children
in heritage education.” The study proposed non-recurring funding for a pilot project to
launch and test the initiative. The pilot project would consist of:
Outdoor Education Institutes: To provide short teacher training institutes, de-
velop curriculum-based programming, and build partnerships between parks
and teachers.
Teacher Resource Program: To provide hands-on teaching materials for chil-
dren, expand the State Parks Junior Ranger program, develop on-line educa-
tional programming, and augment staffing to deliver the programs.
Senate Bill 37 – Page
Kids-to-Parks Grant Program: To provide transportation funding for outdoor
education initiatives.
Service Learning Program: To provide funding for students to complete re-
source-related projects at state parks.
As coordinator of an outdoor classroom program, SPD would approach the program as
a partnership with numerous entities, such as the New Mexico Department of Game and
Fish, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, New Mexico State Land Office, the
U.S. National Park Service, and non-governmental organizations.
In closing, EMNRD suggests that this legislation could help to close the achievement gap by
pairing schools with state parks and connecting children with the outdoors and with their natural
and cultural heritage. Further, that the legislation would make possible a significant increase in
interdisciplinary, hands-on education, increasing student academic achievement and making
schools work outdoors, while also helping to lay the foundation for a strong SPD/PED partner-
The Public Education Department anticipates that the PED and State Parks Division partnership
could impact the public school performance measures relating to the percent of stakeholders who
rate their involvement with public schools as positive and the percent of 4th and 8th-grade stu-
dents who achieve proficiency or above on the criterion-referenced assessments in reading and
language arts, and could also assist students in meeting core performance measures. Further, the
number of education programs and the percentage of park visitors participating in education pro-
grams are key performance measures for the State Parks Division. The program will assist the
division in augmenting the performance of its outdoor education programs by creating closer ties
to the statewide educational system and linking division programs and statewide educational cur-
riculum standards and benchmarks.
EMNRD notes that the legislation would allow SPD to implement a statewide outdoor classroom
program cooperatively with PED and other agencies and organizations, and would therefore en-
hance the performance of SPD in providing quality educational programming. The number of
interpretive programs offered by SPD is a performance measure specified by the Legislature that
has been in place for a number of years. This metric is also recommended as an FY07 perform-
ance measure and the outdoor classroom program would assist SPD in exceeding this perform-
ance measure.
EMNRD advises that the State Parks Division has the staff, experience, and infrastructure to ef-
fectively administer the legislation, and to succeed with the project. Working in conjunction
with PED, SPD management staff could undertake the programmatic implementation of the
statewide Outdoor Classroom Program and State Park education field staff could provide the
hands-on programming and school-to-park connection. The partnership with PED, through the
Office of the Secretary and the PED’s Rural Education Bureau, will provide State Parks with a
unique, effective link to schools across the state, crucial to the success of this program.
Senate Bill 37 – Page
EMNRD indicates that if the legislation is not enacted, SPD will not have sufficient funding to
launch the statewide outdoor classroom program. SPD will continue its efforts to provide quality
interpretation and education programming, but state parks and other locations would remain un-
derutilized for outdoor education. SPD would not have the ability to capitalize on the full poten-
tial of the parks to enhance New Mexico educational systems and to meet existing demand for
programs, student/teacher educational resources, and teacher training.