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New Mexico must fund its schools adequately

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 and board of education, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund who have brought the lawsuit.

Our state constitution mandates state government 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.

This year’s small education funding increase is much needed, but it falls too far short. Taking baby steps is not the way to propel student success forward in the big strides needed.

How much is the state short-changing our students? A recent study conducted of the 2014-2015 school year by economist Steven Barro found New Mexico’s education system is currently underfunded by approximately $600 million.

Student success requires smart investments, too.

Let’s fund what works!

• Grow evidence-based educational programs to succeed, including universal access to early learning opportunities, statewide pre-K, K-3+ and other extended learning opportunities, and reading interventions.

• Offer community schools with “wraparound” services like health clinics and social services, which mitigate the impact of poverty on learning.

• Improve teacher training, professional development and retention to more effectively serve our diverse students. This must include student safety and anti-bullying training.

• Increase educator pay until New Mexico is in line with the world’s highest-achieving school systems. End programs not proven to help, like unfair bonuses based on the current flawed teacher evaluation system.

• Ensure resources are distributed equitably, including for economically disadvantaged, Native American and English language learner students.

• Provide for one-on-one attention with smaller class sizes.

Let’s do what works!

Our state’s last two governors – and the Legislature – each cut personal and corporate tax rates, thereby short-changing our state $800 million. Our state’s anemic economy is proof taking tax revenue away from public schools does not help. Tax rates on the wealthiest few individuals and corporations should be phased back so we can invest in student success.

The greatest investment the state can make for both short- and long-term economic growth is to educate its children. For every million dollars spent on education, twice as many jobs are created compared to spending it on roads – and the long term payoff is greater too!

New Mexico needs a governor and a Legislature with the strength of public purpose to do what it takes to provide for our students that which is needed for a sufficient education.

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