Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. Here’s waht he has to say about the state’s education system.
To say New Mexico’s education system is “failing” sounds harsh, but it describes reality.
According to the “Diplomas Count 2011” report from the Education Research Center, New Mexico’s real graduation rate is 57.1 percent. This is 49th in the nation. Only Nevada has a lower rate.
Some attribute these poor results solely to poverty. While New Mexico is indeed a relatively impoverished state, this is no excuse for poor educational outputs. In fact, New Mexico’s graduation rate is more than 10 points lower than nine of the other poorest states in the nation. These states average 68.5 percent, despite similar, low income levels.
The Legislature seems hard-wired to oppose any reform effort. Yes, A-F school grading passed in the 2011 legislative session on a bi-partisan basis, but bills that would have banned “social promotion” stalled in the regular and special sessions. Legislation that would have rewarded public school teachers based on student achievement also got nowhere.
Bills that would have enabled the parents of special needs and low-income students to choose their own schools rather than having schools chosen for them on the basis of geography died silent deaths with minimal fingerprints from the education establishment.
Simply put, the education establishment in New Mexico is not really interested in new ideas. It would seem that their preference is to simply increase education spending whenever possible. Education spending has been tried and hasn’t worked. Spending increased rapidly during both the Johnson and Richardson Administrations, but to no avail in terms of results.
New Mexico children can’t wait for their legislative supermen (and superwomen) any longer. Every year that goes by without serious, broad-based reforms that provide real accountability for the schools and real options for children, we fail another group of children. It is time to give reforms that have worked elsewhere a chance here in New Mexico.