Time to end social promotion in New Mexico schools


A few years ago, we at the Rio Grande Foundation brought the “Florida Model” for K-12 education reform to New Mexico. The reforms enacted by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida led to dramatic improvements in reading performance among Florida students.

Gov. Martinez has been pushing for some of the Florida-style reforms including the A-F school grading system which passed the Legislature earlier this year and is in the midst of being implemented. Bi-partisan legislation that would have prohibited social promotion (the passing of students from grade to grade regardless of their grasp of the material) of 3rd graders was held up in the waning hours of the session by Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.

Rio Grande Foundation Re-Launches User-friendly Legislative Tracking Tool, NewMexicoVotes.org

(Albuquerque) The Rio Grande Foundation is again tracking all the legislation introduced in the 2011 legislative session through its recently launched NewMexicoVotes.org Web site. RGF launched the site with the opening of the 2008 special session in order to provide a more transparent window for New Mexicans to follow what happens in state government. The site www.newmexicovotes.org is free and open to the public and will be updated with votes from the 2011 special session.

With plain English bill information, the site also reveals the missed votes of every legislator; links that show everyone who has donated to each legislator and the amount of each donation; and a whole host of features that those who want to track what happens in Santa Fe will find useful. It even features House floor votes, which are not available online at the state legislative Web site.

Users of the site will be able to interact with each other, commenting on legislation as it moves during the session.

Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, said of the new public service, “With more alleged corruption in New Mexico making national headlines, the need for more transparency in state government is becoming ever increasingly important. ‘Votes’ is part of our organization’s efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to New Mexico state government.

We want everyone to be able to find out, with a few clicks of a mouse, what his or her legislator is doing, to be able to sign on and read plain English descriptions of what each bill does in a way that the average person can understand, and know immediately what our tax money is being spent on, or whether the bill increases or decreases taxation, regulation, or government transparency.”

Gessing noted that among the most important features of the site is its “missed votes” report which allows users to determine how often their elected official is missing votes in Santa Fe. This report is available here: http://newmexicovotes.org/MissedVotes.aspx Said Gessing, “There are potentially-legitimate reasons for legislators to miss large numbers of votes (such, but not limited to, the family illness that caused Sen. Kernan to miss 180 votes in 2011), but it is something voters should be aware of and follow up with their legislators on.”

Put Rail Runner Out of Its Misery Sooner, Not Later

Originally marketed at a price of $122 million and as possibly being “high-speed,” the Rail Runner shuttles (mostly) tourists and government employees from downtown Albuquerque to Santa Fe and from Albuquerque south to the bedroom community of Belen

Only recently have New Mexico taxpayers been made aware of the full scale of spending that this project entails. The issue has exploded onto the pages of the Albuquerque Journal and other papers. According to newspaper reports, the train will cost a total of $1.3 billion over the next 20 years.

Luncheon: Rich States, Poor States - Why New Mexico is Poor and How It Can Do Better

On Wednesday, September 14, the Rio Grande Foundation will be hosting a luncheon with Jonathan Williams, director of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Williams will be discussing the book "Rich States, Poor States," which he co-authored with Art Laffer, the father of the "Laffer Curve" and Stephen Moore, who serves on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.

ALEC is the nation's largest, nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators, with 2,000 legislative members across the nation.

The event will be held from noon to 1:00PM on September 14th at the Marriott Pyramid which is located at 5151 San Francisco Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.

Cost of the event is $30 if reservations are made by September 7th. Reservations can be made online, via check, or at the door the day of the event. Price will be $40 if the reservation is made after September 7th. Call us at 505-264-6090 with any questions. Checks can be mailed to us at: PO Box 40336, Albuquerque, NM 87196.

About the event:

Bloated state spending levels and trillions of dollars in unfunded government employee pension liabilities pose huge financial obstacles to economic recovery in the 50 states today. This begs the million – or trillion – dollar question: Why are some states prospering while others are still struggling.

In the fourth edition of "Rich States, Poor States," Jonathan Williams and the his co-authors discuss the best practices to enable states to drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the standard of living for their citizens.

According to the report, New Mexico has performed well in recent years, ranking 5th in economic performance. But the economic outlook is cloudy for the Land of Enchantment with a ranking of 39th. Williams will explain this and how New Mexico can improve its economic outlook in his talk.

About the speaker:

Jonathan Williams is the director of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he works with state legislators and the private sector to develop free-market fiscal policy solutions in the states. Prior to joining ALEC, Jonathan served as staff economist at the non-partisan Tax Foundation, authoring numerous tax policy studies.

His work has been featured in many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes and Investor's Business Daily.

In addition to testifying before numerous legislative bodies and speaking to audiences across America, Williams is a popular guest on talk radio shows and has appeared on numerous television outlets, including The Glenn Beck Program and Fox Business News. A Mid-Michigan native, Williams graduated magna cum laude from Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, majoring in economics, banking/finance, and business management. While at Northwood, he was the recipient of the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Award in Economics.

2011-09-14 12:00 - 13:00

New Rio Grande Foundation Study: Time to Stop the Rail Runner in its Tracks

(Albuquerque) The Rio Grande Foundation has long been critical of the Rail Runner and its finances. A new report from the Foundation outlines the top “Ten Reasons to Shut the Rail Runner Down Now.” The report is available here.

Originally marketed at a price of $122 million and as possibly being “high-speed,” the Rail Runner shuttles (mostly) tourists and government employees from downtown Albuquerque to Santa Fe and from Albuquerque south to the bedroom community of Belen.

Regardless of whether you think the Rail Runner is worth the money or not, there is no doubt that the process that created the train is rotten to the core. For starters, the train has been operational for five years, but only recently have the system’s true finances been explained in any detail.

Gathering city payroll information

The Rio Grande Foundation believes strongly in government transparency. To that end, we are submitting information requests to, and collecting payroll information, for all major cities -- and eventually all counties -- throughout New Mexico. The list of cities is below. Albuquerque already has a transparency site with payroll information available, so a link to that is provided. Links will be activated as information is received.
Sunland Park
Las Vegas
Los Alamos (Los Alamos is both a City and County, so it will be posted in both)

One Year Later: Was the Stimulus-Funded Bike Bridge Worth It?

(Albuquerque) In August of 2010, the Gail Ryba bike bridge over the Rio Grande at I-40 was opened. The project, which was funded with federal stimulus money, cost approximately $5 million to construct. And, while the fight continues over the ultimate economic impact of the federal stimulus package, we at the Rio Grande Foundation wanted to better understand the impact of the new bike bridge on local commuting habits.

At the dedication ceremony last August, West Side Councilor Dan Lewis called the bridge “another bridge crossing over the Rio Grande” and, while the statement is certainly accurate on its face, we wanted to see how many people are using the bridge and how many of those people are actually commuting to work.

To do this, two Rio Grande Foundation employees stood on the bridge, counting people and filming the scene from the bridge during a recent morning rush hour (from 7:40am to 8:30am). Video of the rush hour (which we have sped up, set to music, and uploaded to Youtube) clearly shows traffic on the Interstate Highway passing by at a rapid rate with only occasional bike or walking traffic on the bridge.

Updated Bernalillo County Salary Data Posted

Bernalillo County is still not posting employee names with their salary information online. Therefore, the Rio Grande Foundation has taken upon itself the task of collecting and posting the information online. Of course, as with any major enterprise, the payroll constantly changes, so we re-requested the information and have posted it here.

As you'll see in looking at the data, the annual salary figure is not directly found in the document. To calculate that, multiply the number by 8*5*52 (8 hours per day, 5 days per week, and 52 weeks in the year). So, someone at a rate of 17.4337 is making $36, 262 annually.

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