Most of the media’s attention has been focused on the ongoing scandal at the top of Albuquerque Public Schools. Unfortunately, an issue with much larger long-term ramifications was voted on by the APS board – minus Peggy Muller-Aragon, who opposed the move.
The issue is of course paying district employees “political pay” for serving in the Legislature. Apparently, a majority of the board recognized an opportunity to increase its influence in Santa Fe at taxpayer expense.
Currently, four legislators are employed by the school district. Those include Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque; and Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho. Unlike the others, Lewis has not accepted his pay as a teacher in recent years when serving in Santa Fe and presumably will continue to do the same despite the district’s move.
This is a classic case of a taxpayer-funded entity working to further its own political interests at the expense of those who pay the bills. After all, APS already has lobbyists patrolling the halls in Santa Fe, why not add a few more APS-paid legislators into the mix when it comes time to vote on education budgets?
Dr. Matthew Ladner spoke at the Rio Grande Foundation's "Milton Friedman Day" celebration on New Mexico's Impending Demographic Challenges and How Policymakers Can Cope. His slides can be accessed here.
Ladner, an optimist by nature, had some sobering words for the event attendees. As Ladner made clear, so many things in our society are improving and our economy is more productive than ever, but our education system has seen growth in employment without similar growth in productivity or improved outputs.
As Ladner notes, there are successful education reform models including the one implemented in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The entire public school system was turned into charter schools with some significant, positive results:
Reforming and improving the education system, notes Ladner, is all the more important with New Mexico's elderly population set to explode in the years ahead according to new demographic research by Ladner. According to Ladner. In fact, as Ladner notes New Mexico's working age will shrink as a percentage of the total population, with the Land of Enchantment projected to have the highest total age dependency ratio in the nation in 2030.
In New Mexico's case the increase in the total age dependency ratio projects to be entirely due to a near doubling of the elderly population between 2010 and 2030.
Dr. Ladner is Senior Advisor of Policy and Research with the Foundation for Educational Choice. He previously worked with the Rio Grande Foundation to bring the “Florida Model” for education reform to New Mexico.
Dr. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform. Most recently, Dr. Ladner authored the groundbreaking, original research Turn and Face the Strain: Age Demographic Change and the Near Future of American Education, outlining the future funding crisis facing America's K-12 public education funding.
I was recently in Las Cruces and had a chance to sit down with Fred Martino of KRWG (the public television station in Las Cruces) to discuss what happened in the 2015 legislative session and special session. Las Cruces area state Representative Bill McCamley, a Democrat, was also on the air and, believe it or not, we found a few areas of agreement.
New Mexico businessman and entrepreneur Steve McKee was the keynote speaker at a recent Rio Grande Foundation luncheon. He gave an optimistic and detailed talk about the ways in which New Mexico policymakers can turn our state around and even beat Texas in the process. Check out the informative and even inspirational talk below:
A recent report by New Mexico's Legislative Finance Committee has found that teacher pay in our state is too low to keep good teachers. Interestingly, according to the NEA, New Mexico's per-pupil spending on education is about average (25th according to the chart on p.54), but our teacher salaries are ranked 43rd in the nation (page 18).
What gives? For starters, New Mexico is known for having high capital spending when it comes to our public schools (7th-highest in the nation according to the chart on p. 58). Also, as data compiled by the Friedman Foundation and presented below by the Rio Grande Foundation shows, bureaucracy and administrative staffing levels have grown dramatically in recent years:
Sen. John Arthur-Smith does make a good point in the original Albuquerque Journal article about how teacher pensions may be unsustainable (teacher pay is essentially back-loaded to retirement). This means seniority is valued over competence as young people are scared away from a 20+ year commitment in order to get their "return on investment." Perhaps Smith would introduce legislation to transfer teachers (on a voluntary or mandatory basis) from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution 401K-style programs?
As seen in the map below from NCSL, this is an option that is in place in several other states (and is becoming increasingly-popular):
Once again, the National Education Association (NEA) has proven itself to be simply another left-wing special interest group that cares more about obtaining and spending taxpayer money than enacting policies that benefit New Mexico’s children. This is the clear message of the recent article by their president, Betty Patterson.
She spends her first few paragraphs decrying efforts to make New Mexico a “right to work” state. Interestingly, in New Mexico, teachers already have the option to join or pay dues to a union. In other words, teachers in New Mexico government schools currently live under a reasonable approximation of “right to work.” The NEA did actively fight “right to work” but that’s simply because the organization supports all manner of liberal causes regardless of their impact on students.
I recently sat down with Gwyneth Doland at KNME and CNM President Katherine Winograd to discuss the Obama Administration's proposal for "free" community college. Needless to say, we are not big fans of Obama's proposal. Even Winograd doesn't seem to be fully-convinced that the program is the best use of taxpayer dollars.
And, while RGF opposes the Obama proposal, we do value the educational value of community colleges and emphasized their importance in a 2014 paper outlining needed reforms for New Mexico's lottery scholarship program. Community colleges (like CNM) are one way to get more "bang" for lottery scholarship bucks.
The full interview is below with a "web extra" below that.
There have been so many things going on during the 2015 legislative session, that keeping up has been a real challenge. The interview below was done with Fred Martino of KRWG TV in Las Cruces at the beginning of the legislative session in January. A lot has happened since then, but the discussion remains extremely relevant.