Do what works to provide student success

Teachers and other educators across the nation say “enough” to chronic underfunding of public education. Here in New Mexico, educators await a positive outcome to the lawsuit against the State for failing to provide public schools the supports necessary for statewide student success. The National Education Association-New Mexico applauds every parent, school district Board of Education and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund who bring the lawsuit. Our state constitution mandates State government to provide a “uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of all the children of school age.”

New Mexican children possess the same potential, intelligence, and motivation as their peers across the country.  New Mexico has loving and supportive families, committed teachers and supportive communities, but the State is starving its public schools.

Imagine not being counted

If you’ve ever done much research on your family history, you’ve likely run across old census records. These yellowed documents—many hand-written with quill and ink by enumerators who went door-to-door to gather the information—were used to determine how many representatives each state had in Congress. Today’s Census is still incredibly important, but now it is much more high-tech. It involves cutting-edge technology, years of planning, extensive research, and thousands of Census workers across the country. Far from being a thing of the past, the decennial Census count that takes place every ten years determines crucial day-to-day realities for all residents in the U.S. It determines voting and school districts, political representation, and how billions in federal dollars are spent across the country—including $6.2 billion every year in New Mexico alone.

Institutional racism and early childhood education funding

In New Mexico, 90 percent of Native American 4th graders are below reading proficiency levels. Only 61 percent of African American high schoolers graduate in four years. Hispanic/Latino households have a median annual income $15,000 less than White households. These data are consistent with countless others that make clear that there is an epidemic of racial inequity in New Mexico. What is less clear to many is that addressing these inequities would benefit the entire population of the state not just communities of color.

Making progress for women’s equality at the Roundhouse

This past year across the country, we heard about countless stories of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. From the entertainment industry to big corporations – and yes, even in our own Roundhouse – this was a moment of reckoning for many. But for most women, this was nothing new. For too long, workplaces have protected those who have committed these acts through processes that don’t protect victims and further embolden the “that’s how it’s always been” culture. This year at the legislature, our voices ranged from #MeToo to #TimesUp, and together, we’ve changed the narrative.

Congress should not trade one injustice for another

President Trump created a crisis over DACA by rescinding the directive that protected from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Now he is holding them hostage, demanding that Congress give him $25 billion for border security, including his “beautiful” wall, in exchange for not rounding up Dreamers and sending them into exile. That’s a deal that Congress should not only reject, but condemn in the strongest possible terms for the sinister choice that it is. You don’t fix one injustice by creating another. Many people seem to think that the wall, although expensive and offensive, is harmless. “If this is what it takes to protect Dreamers,” they say, “just give Trump his wall.”

The truth is the wall is not benign.

Racist rhetoric will not be tolerated in NM

On January 30th, during Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, New Mexicans –along with the entire country– mourned with the parents of the two teenage girls from Long Island who were brutally murdered in the fall of 2016. It was a tough thing to watch, considering the underlying purpose for their presence at the capitol that night. It was no coincidence they were called to stand during President Trump’s part of the speech on immigration. That was the perfect opportunity for Trump and his white supremacist administration to reinforce their racist ideal that because the culprits were undocumented youth and had ties to the infamous MS 13 gang, all Dreamers must be equally as dangerous. Only a little more than a week later, New Mexicans once again had to face that xenophobic, racist rhetoric when the Albuquerque Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, published a political cartoon by Sean Delonas—well known for his brutally racist “political” drawings.

Time to act

New Mexico, like most states, struggles to create an education system that can compete nationally and internationally and prepare our children to succeed in a global economy. My thirty years as an educator have taught me, just as importantly, the best of our schools can transform our children with positive experiences that lead to emotional well-being and resiliency. No child should be denied access to these best schools. We need every school to be a great school, and by learning from the best educational systems, we can make that happen. The National Conference of State Legislatures, as an outgrowth of a dynamic forum with education experts and state policymakers about the poor showing of the United States on the Programme for International Student Assessment, launched a study on the world’s top education systems. While U.S. students were scoring about the same on the test administered to 15-year-olds in 72 countries, students in other countries were improving, leaving the United States behind.

The big public land sell-out

Next month, hundreds of corporate representatives will sit down at their computers, log into something called Energynet, and bid, eBay style, for more than 300,000 acres of federal land spread across five Western states. They will pay as little as $2 per acre for control of parcels in southeastern Utah’s canyon country, Wyoming sage grouse territory and Native American ancestral homelands in New Mexico. Even as public land advocates scoff at the idea of broad transfers of federal land to states and private interests, this less-noticed conveyance continues unabated. It is a slightly less egregious version of the land transfers that state supremacists, Sagebrush Rebels and privatization advocates have pushed for since the 1970s. This piece originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission.

Funding early childhood education is a moral issue

Each year, the New Mexico Legislature debates the issues that influence whether children receive the tools they need to make better lives for themselves, that decide our state’s economic future, and that create the moral fabric of our lives here together in our beautiful state. Bills are not simply jumbles of text on paper that restrict or liberate us, each bill (and the support or opposition it draws) stakes out a moral position that reveals priorities. There’s no better example of this moral question about our laws than the yearly push for more smart investments in early childhood care and education using the $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund. All of our discussions about the future economic prosperity of our children (and our state more generally) are bound up in how we treat their early learning. It’s an indisputable fact that the earlier children begin learning, the better learners they become as they age.

Tools to make capital outlay more efficient

Capital outlay funding is a controversial and difficult process. The demand for state money far exceeds the funds available; for the 2018 legislative session, state and local governments have requested over $2 billion for capital outlay funded by general obligation and severance tax bonds. The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), the General Services Department and legislators are responsible for prioritizing these requests and allocating funds, but frequently find themselves missing the tools necessary to do so. Future generations and those new to politics may not understand the power that their legislators have when allocating capital outlay. While all New Mexicans suffer when capital outlay funds are spent on short-term projects that do not address long-term community needs, future generations are some of the most affected.