Lessons governor candidates can take from education reform

When Gov. Susana Martinez was sworn into office nearly eight years ago, she had this to say about educating children in New Mexico: “Nothing we do is more indispensable to our future well-being or will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education.” New Mexico had received an “F” for […]

Lessons governor candidates can take from education reform

When Gov. Susana Martinez was sworn into office nearly eight years ago, she had this to say about educating children in New Mexico: “Nothing we do is more indispensable to our future well-being or will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education.”

New Mexico had received an “F” for K-12 achievement on a national education grading report. Fast forward eight years. As she winds down the final year of her second term, New Mexico earned a “D-” for K-12 achievement from Education Week’s Quality Counts report — and our overall grade actually sunk from a C to a D, dropping from 32nd to 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

There’s more to learn about that progress — or lack thereof — in trying to improve education in New Mexico, other than “it’s hard.” Turning around a system as large as public education is like turning an aircraft carrier. It’s going to take a lot of pushing and it won’t turn on a dime. It will take a big idea, and most likely, decades of follow through. Certainly more than the eight years governors get.

Which means any governor is going to need buy-in from the people who are running that system and who will be there when they turn in the key to the governor’s mansion.

It’s something the four candidates for governor should take heed of as they craft their visions for what’s next for children in New Mexico.

I had the privilege of speaking to all four of them about early childhood education, child wellbeing and the K-12 system in New Mexico. How we can make our children’s lives and futures better is such an important issue that all of them set time aside to talk with New Mexico In Depth. You can find the Q&As with Jeff Apodaca, Joe Cervantes, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce in our Educating Children section, where you can also find our continuing coverage of the topic.

Their answers provide a good sense of where they wanted to take education in New Mexico. Obviously, there are more similarities among the Democrats. Early childhood education and helping at-risk families with babies and toddlers with parenting skills and social services were high on the list of all three Democratic candidates. Pearce came at the issue from the perspective that K-12 was the top priority over adding new programs, and that making sure parents had the opportunity for good-paying jobs were the way to improve lives for children.

All thought the testing regime put in place by Martinez needed to go.

About that big idea. It is clear ensuring early childhood programs and education for all children is the strategy most educators and child advocates in the state have decided will improve our poor educational outcomes — and help combat issues as wide ranging as child abuse, substance abuse, crime prevention and workforce readiness. It will take hundreds of millions of dollars, and more importantly, smart decision-making to ensure the state is creating and supporting evidence-based programs rather than just spending money, calling it early childhood and hoping it works.

Does New Mexico have the fortitude — or even the margin of error — for such a complicated endeavor? The state spent $220 million on a spaceport and the second-guessing started before the concrete had hardened on the runway. As Pearce told me in his interview, “Once you pour the concrete, you better push it 100 percent.”

It’s also going to take a lot of force to make transformational change. Gov. Martinez leaned into her reform plan with all her might, as did her education secretary, Hanna Skandera. They didn’t get far because they never got buy-in from educators or state legislators. Every one of the candidates for governor has signaled they will begin to dismantle much of what the Martinez administration has put in place.

When our next governor takes the oath of office, he or she will need to start building the support they will need to transform education and drag New Mexico up from being one of the worst places to raise a child in the U.S. That person will also need to pass the baton onto the next governor and the next, until today’s newborn New Mexican is walking across the stage to pick up her degree or starting his first day on the job.

Sylvia Ulloa covers child wellbeing and education for New Mexico In Depth. You may contact her at [email protected].

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…
Bill to end detention of immigrants in New Mexico fails soon after new report on poor conditions

Bill to end detention of immigrants in New Mexico fails soon after new report on poor conditions

A bill to prohibit immigration detention in New Mexico failed a few weeks after an organization issued a report regarding the conditions for a…
Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

House Speaker Javier Martinez said that the Paid Family and Medical Leave will return to next year’s legislative session. SB 3, sponsored by state…
Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…
Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros recommended that the commissioners deny New Mexico Gas Company’s request to build, own and operate…
SCOTUS hears interstate air pollution case

SCOTUS hears interstate air pollution case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday regarding a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule known as the good neighbor plan. The good neighbor plan…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
Supreme Court censures attorney over conduct in anti-COVID policy suits

Supreme Court censures attorney over conduct in anti-COVID policy suits

The New Mexico State Supreme Court censured a New Mexico attorney because of her “misconduct” in two unsuccessful cases pushing back on COVID-19 regulations…
Guv outlines some health priorities on state spending

Guv outlines some health priorities on state spending

During her state of the state address on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told legislators that one of her legislative priorities is a request…
Referendum on Edgewood’s anti-abortion ordinance moves forward

Referendum on Edgewood’s anti-abortion ordinance moves forward

The town of Edgewood is moving forward with its ballot referendum on its anti-abortion ordinance at a cost of more than $35,000. The town…
2023 Top Stories #1: Anti-abortion efforts go local

2023 Top Stories #1: Anti-abortion efforts go local

Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral…
NM Supreme Court to decide if local anti-abortion ordinances are legal

NM Supreme Court to decide if local anti-abortion ordinances are legal

The New Mexico Supreme Court will decide whether anti-abortion ordinances passed by local governments in eastern New Mexico over the last 13 months can…
AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez and a coalition of 19 other attorneys general called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue…
Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

House Speaker Javier Martinez said that the Paid Family and Medical Leave will return to next year’s legislative session. SB 3, sponsored by state…
Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

A bill that would have provided paid leave for several weeks died on the House floor when 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to vote…

Bill to require disclosure of use of AI in campaign materials goes to governor

The Senate approved a bill aiming to require the disclosure of the use of artificial intelligence or other changes made by computers to campaign…
House amends, passes bill banning firearms near polling places

House amends, passes bill banning firearms near polling places

The House narrowly approved a bill that would ban firearms near polling places. The House voted 35-34 to pass the bill following an extensive…
Manny Gonzales doesn’t qualify for Senate GOP primary ballot

Manny Gonzales doesn’t qualify for Senate GOP primary ballot

Nella Domenici is the lone Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, after Manny Gonzales III failed to qualify for the ballot. Gonzales did not file…
Stansbury talks infrastructure issues at roundtable

Stansbury talks infrastructure issues at roundtable

Democratic U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury discussed infrastructure issues and grants that could help fix those issues during a roundtable discussion at Rio Rancho City…
Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…
Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros recommended that the commissioners deny New Mexico Gas Company’s request to build, own and operate…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report