As reporters, we have a lot of questions about the state of education here in New Mexico. Most people have strong opinions, and sometimes fiery debates can obscure the deeper issue of why New Mexico’s students aren’t faring as well as they should. Last week we published stories about education in New Mexico leading up to the start of the school year. We wanted to cut through the rhetoric and understand where schools and students are succeeding and where more work is needed. Unfortunately, those stories about education were missing one significant voice—the state’s Public Education Department (PED).
Giving New Mexico’s students better opportunities to understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and preparing them to lead the way in STEM-related careers, from physics and hydrology to video game design and civil engineering—will require real change in classrooms, beginning in the earliest grades. But in the last few years, Gov. Susana Martinez has been sending mixed messages. In 2015, Martinez announced that the state would bump spending on STEM programs by $2.4 million, or 20 percent. That money would go toward hiring more STEM teachers and providing a $5,000 stipend for math and science teachers in rural or underserved areas. At the time, Martinez said that the “future of the state’s economy depends on having an educated workforce that can meet the needs of employers in the years to come.”
But earlier this year, Martinez vetoed a bill that would have required the state’s teachers to follow the Next Generation Science Standards.
It’s back to school time in New Mexico. But throughout the summer three big education-related headlines have framed education policy issues that will impact our school children this year and for years to come. The recently-completed court hearing as to whether New Mexico’s education system is “adequate” and whether the courts should attempt to force legislators to spend as much as an extra $600 million on K-12;
Sen. Mimi Stewart, a liberal Democrat and union supporter spoke at an education-related conference over the summer and offered some unvarnished truths about New Mexico’s education woes including “We don’t know how to teach kids from poverty.”
PARCC scores were released. The test may be controversial, but it, like most other objective education measuring tools finds New Mexico’s education system to be lacking. In particular, PARCC exposed the shortcomings of the State’s largest district, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS).
Our next News and Brews fundraising event is coming up soon—and we’ll be talking about education just as students are heading to school. Specifically, we’ll be talking about K-12 education. The talk will take place on Thursday, August 24 at Rob’s Place at O’Niell’s in Nob Hill. Tickets for the event are free, though we suggest a $20 donation. RSVP for free here
As of now, State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia are scheduled to attend.
Second grade teacher Billie Thurman-Helean is about to start her third year teaching at Maggie Cordova Elementary School in Rio Rancho. Her life dream was to teach, she said. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” she told NM Political Report. She didn’t realize, however, that she would pay for school supplies out of her own pocket. As a kid, she remembers bringing a backpack and lunch to school, and having school supplies available there.
How New Mexico educates its children will be in the hands of a state judge soon as a landmark trial against the state Public Education Department wraps up. Over eight weeks, the trial has featured dozens of witnesses and numerous citations to academic studies and policy reports. But in the end, the trial before First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe boiled down to dueling worldviews. The plaintiffs — the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) — cited education outcomes for low-income, Native American and English language learners as evidence that New Mexico does not meet its constitutional obligation to provide a sufficient education for all children. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.