Their view: Spending not answer to education problem

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, which promotes limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

He’s concerned about a lack of progress in the state’s education performance despite more spending:

During her campaign, Gov. Susana Martinez said she would not cut education. Based on revised budget numbers that were released immediately after she was elected, that went out the window. Now, Martinez is proposing modest cuts of 1.5 percent for K-12.

It didn’t take long for the unions and other supporters of more spending to draw lines in the sand. Jose Armas of the Latino/Hispano Education Improvement Task Force recently wrote “Let’s dispel the myth that we’re throwing money at education. New Mexico has been steadily cutting education budgets for decades.”

Instead of being “cut to the bone,” however, New Mexico’s K-12 system has seen funding rise dramatically for the better part of two decades. A new study, “K-12 Spending in New Mexico: More Money, Few Results,” which relies on data from the Census Bureau’s annual “Public Education Finances” report, clearly shows that K-12 spending per-pupil has risen far-faster than the rate of inflation since the late 1990s.

In the 1994-1995 school year, New Mexico schools spent $4,100 per pupil. By 2007-2008, the last year available, New Mexico was spending $9,068 per per-pupil, according to the Census. If per-pupil spending had grown at the same rate as inflation over that time period, we’d be spending less than $6,000 annually to educate that same student.

What tax-payers get for all of that money? The answer, quite simply is, “not much.” In 1997, according to a report called “Graduation by the Numbers,” New Mexico graduated 56.3 percent of its students. By 2007, that number had actually declined to 54.9 percent.

Obviously, higher spending alone is not going to achieve better results. Real reforms and accountability are needed in order to boost results.