Improving student outcomes is not as simple as throwing more dollars at education.
I’ve witnessed this firsthand in visiting 77 districts and hundreds of schools across New Mexico this past year and have celebrated the outstanding work that is happening in classrooms and schools across the state.
Just look at the progress we’ve seen since we raised the bar. Since 2015, 13,000 more students are on grade-level in reading and 11,000 more are doing math at grade level. Our Native American students have made unprecedented achievement gains in reading, up 8.2 percentage points. We also have more students than ever before graduating from high school, lower college remediation rates, and more students taking and passing AP exams so they can save money and earn college credit to further their education.
Unfortunately, state District Court Judge Sarah Singleton was late to the party and overlooked this progress. We’ve already responsibly increased education funding, and student improvement is on the rise. But special interest groups and the court have decided to ignore, or worse, disrespect, the remarkable achievements of our students and teachers in recent years in favor of advocating for more of the same – calling for more money without a clear, consistent plan that measures student progress.
I have seen right here in New Mexico that more targeted funding can make a difference in our students’ lives. In fact, I advocated for an additional $100 million this past legislative session, which included $60 million for teacher raises. Those investments were sound because they built upon programs that are proven to work, require consistent measurement of student progress, develop and reward great teachers, champion parental involvement and hold districts and schools accountable.
As educational leaders we must spend time in the field, learn from the great work happening, and focus on what is actually working for our students and families – then focus on those best practices. As a result of my time standing alongside students, families, teachers and school leaders, my educational advocacy focuses on what works, not on politics.
The governor and the Legislature have increased public education funding over the last eight years by nearly half a billion dollars – while rightfully demanding a return on investment. Now, we spend $3 billion annually on public education – more per student than many of our neighboring states. We’re investing this money in school turnaround, college access and teacher quality initiatives because they have positively impacted student achievement growth. And at each step along the way, there has been meaningful accountability for districts, schools and educators – ensuring that any additional funding actually yields improved outcomes for kids.
Now we’re seeing results – and must move forward, not backward.
It is irresponsible, and doesn’t serve our students well, to demand more funding without a clear plan while asking for an accountability hiatus. We must have the courage to stay the course and strengthen efforts that have already been proven to help our students succeed. Then, in the years to come, we can look back and see the progress our students will have made.