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Harry Gordon: Why all the roadblocks to educational options?

It was not long ago that the “leadership” of Rio Rancho’s three educational systems — University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico College and Rio Rancho Public Schools — banded together, tighter than a welded joint, to defeat Rio Rancho’s ballot proposition to redirect one-half of the quarter of a percent “education tax” to improve public safety in the City of Vision. Their mantra: “Don’t Quit on our Kids.”

Oh, how a few months change everything when one of the participants in that alliance is perceived to have “invaded” what the other thinks is its exclusive territory. Case in point, RRPS and UNM. The issue: Don’t tread on my hallowed ground. The reason for the “feud,” simply put, is territory, ego and money.

Harry Gordon.

Harry Gordon.

UNM wants to set aside a couple of classrooms in its Rio Rancho campus for a charter school, Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science, so the school can begin holding classes for sixth-graders this fall. No sooner than the announcement about the expansion was made, RRPS Superintendent V. Sue Cleveland began a charge to stop the AIMS expansion and deny Rio Rancho students more choice in primary education options. Why? That’s simple — AIMS would present competition for The ASK Academy, a previously approved charter school in Rio Rancho.

In a separate matter, CNM announced plans to lease space in the AMREP building, which is within its taxing district, so the school can begin offering career technical courses and programs in a variety of fields this fall. Soon after CNM made its announcement, the state’s higher education department starting throwing up road blocks, saying that such an action required its approval. Interestingly enough, there is recent case law concerning Santa Fe Community College, in which the ruling supported that community college’s efforts to establish a learning center, away from its primary campus, but within its taxing district. Why all of a sudden all this “red tape”?

Competition is good, be it in business, health care or education. It gives the consumer choices and an opportunity to get what they want. That should be a governing principle in education as well. More options, more opportunity for students to get a great education.

The real question: Why all the roadblocks to getting these educational options up and running? It’s time the leadership of these educational bodies put aside their differences and do what is best for students. What’s really scary? These are the people whom we have entrusted with both our children’s education and our nation’s future.

Is it any wonder why the U.S. educational system lags so far behind China, Russia, India, Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, Canada, etc.?

(Harry Gordon, a graduate civil engineer, is an 11-year resident of Rio Rancho.)