Think New Mexico has it right on education reform - Albuquerque Journal

Think New Mexico has it right on education reform

Courtesy Think New Mexico

Every New Mexican must read Think New Mexico’s recently released white paper, which holds almost all the answers to the state’s failed education system.

Authors Fred Nathan and Kristina Fisher take readers through Mississippi’s meteoric rise from 49th- or 50th-worst state in the country for education to 29th in a span of a few years. There’s clearly something there that a rational, intelligent person can learn and use. Unfortunately, rational and intelligent are not two adjectives to accurately describe Public Education Department officials and the politicians who determine local school budgets.

Think New Mexico clearly states 10 things the state must do to begin educating children. The points range from more teacher training, longer school years and days, principal training, stronger curriculum and right-sizing schools. These are all common sense, basic ideas legislators and governors have refused to address over the past 40 years. Republicans and Democrats agree to spend more money while requiring no results. No business could ever operate that way, and make no mistake education is a business.

Another great idea implemented by Mississippi: improve the quality of school board members. Provide training to boards and fire them for nepotism. Even better, when a school board member files to run for another political office he or she must resign from the school board. An Española School Board member currently sits on that board, the Northern New Mexico College Board of Regents and ran for Rio Arriba County Commission. Fortunately, he lost. Most school boards in the state are woefully unprepared to manage multimillion-dollar budgets and direct superintendents whose education and experience far exceeds that of the entire board.

Think New Mexico thoughtfully takes readers through the various proposals, explains the reasoning and gives many examples of past indiscretions and answers to the issues. The Yazzie-Martinez enforcement, which is currently being ignored for the most part, is completely addressed in Think’s “Roadmap for Rethinking” education in our state. The proposed changes would only boost the programs and tools needed to provide a proper education to not only minorities in the state but all students. My cynicism does not allow me to hope even a few of these stellar ideas will make it through the Roundhouse meat grinder. The committee process excels at quashing good ideas that go against lobbyists’ and “bought” senators and representatives’ desires.

I disagree with Think New Mexico’s (rationale that the proposed) Constitutional Amendment 1 would give $81 million more to the department. It would be spent on more programs with no measurable outcome. That amendment should be soundly defeated until the department can explain to voters exactly how it will be spent and how it will improve children’s education. We must do something different. Throwing more money at education has not worked since former Gov. Bill Richardson convinced voters to raid the permanent fund for five years. Huge teacher raises did nothing. The teaching process must be improved.

Those involved with the process must be better trained. Think New Mexico’s great ideas go a long way to holding legislators’ hands in making those many improvements. To read the full report go to: thinknm.org.

Robert Trapp is the former publisher of the Rio Grand SUN.

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