Rhode Island Pension Reforms a Model for New Mexico

The opportunity to get something for nearly nothing is rare indeed. It is even rarer when one is talking about government, an entity that known more for turning something into nothing than the other way around.

But there was recently some good news on the government efficiency front in this country. Not in Washington where the monopolistic federal monolith continues to grow unabated, but at the state level where Americans can vote with their feet, in search of economic freedom and sound economic policies.

The glimmer of hope comes from Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation and a state controlled by relatively liberal Democrats at the legislative level and a moderate governor who labels himself “Independent.” Politically, we’re not talking about Texas here. Nor are we talking about Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker took the government unions on directly and demanded concessions, thus generating a national debate that is still under way. But we are talking about a state, Rhode Island, which had the steepest population decline last year, a factor that undoubtedly spurred legislative action. 

Las Cruces Education Forum Video Posted

The Rio Grande Foundation hosted a forum on K-12 education reform in Las Cruces on Jan. 12. Forum participants included Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation, Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces), Tracey Bryan of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico, and Robert Carreon of Teach for America.

Untitled from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

What is the mission of our higher ed institutions?


Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently made headlines around the country when he argued that institutes of higher education in his state of Florida should prioritize funding for the study of science and technology in the his state's institutes of higher education.

Said Scott, "If I'm going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I'm going to take money to create jobs so I want the money to go to a degree where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so."

One may agree or disagree with Scott's assessment, but his remarks do point to a fundamental issue in higher education, specifically, "What should the mission of institutes of higher education be?" In New Mexico, institutes of higher education received more than $2 billion in funding from the state this year. While that funding level has been reduced somewhat in the current economic downturn, it remains a significant investment of resources. But to what end?

‘Fracking’ Essential To Future

Mora County Commissioner John Olivas wants a ban on oil and gas drilling in Mora County because he is concerned with the environmental impact of a drilling process named hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking,” as it is colloquially called.

Mora County is not alone in its concern about fracking. Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties have halted or discouraged drilling and fracking with ordinances and moratoriums. 
 

‘Average’ Shouldn’t Be Victory For APS

Recently, a report called the “Trial Urban District Assessment” was released. The report compared student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 21 urban school districts, including Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendant Winston Brooks, upon release of the report, was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal as being “pretty ecstatic” about data showing that APS was “about average” compared to the 20 other cities in the report. Brooks went on to say, in a press release on the report, that “These results are encouraging because they show that APS is doing at least as well, and in several cases better, than many of the nation’s urban school districts facing similar educational challenges.”

Are Higher Ed Mission Statements Mere Window Dressing in New Mexico?

(Albuquerque) Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently made headlines around the country when he argued that institutes of higher education in his state of Florida should prioritize funding for the study of science and technology in the his state’s institutes of higher education.

Said Scott, “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take money to create jobs…so I want the money to go to a degree where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

One may agree or disagree with Scott’s statement, but prioritization of limited resources is essential. In order to better understand how those resources should be allocated in higher education in New Mexico, the Rio Grande Foundation undertook an effort to survey members of the boards of regents of the state’s six public senior universities on their views of their schools’ mission statements. Unfortunately, poor returns – only 26.7% of the regents responded – seem to indicate that many of the people responsible for leading these institutes do not take their mission statements seriously.

Said Pat Leonard an adjunct fellow with the Foundation and the lead author of new Rio Grande Foundation report “Are Mission Statements Mere Window Dressing in New Mexico?,” The regents are political appointees charged with the guidance of New Mexico’s public universities. As such, we expected far more enthusiastic participation and willingness to share views on their institutes’ mission statements. Unfortunately, this was not the case.” Rio Grande Foundation president and co-author of the report noted that, “Without a clearly-stated mission, policymakers are left to judge for themselves whether New Mexico’s higher education institutions are achieving their goals or not. In times of constrained budgets, it is more important than ever to have a clear understanding of what these schools are attempting to achieve.”

The full report is available online here.

A sample survey containing the questions that were sent to each regent can be found here.

Rio Grande Foundation Shows APS NAEP Scores nothing to be “ecstatic” About

(Albuquerque) Recently, a report called the “Trial Urban District Assessment” (TUDA) was released (see charts here). The report compared student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 21 urban school districts including Albuquerque. The Rio Grande Foundation and others have used New Mexico’s poor performance on the NAEP to argue for education reforms.

APS Superintendant Winston Brooks, upon release of the report, was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal as being “pretty ecstatic” about data showing that APS was “about average” compared to the 20 other cities in the report.[1] Brooks went on to say, in a press release on the report that, “These results are encouraging because they show that APS is doing at least as well, and in several cases better, than many of the nation’s urban school districts facing similar educational challenges.[2]

But how similar are they? According to a Rio Grande Foundation analysis of the data (using US Census numbers), the families of students in APS are wealthier than 17 of the 20 districts analyzed in the TUDA report. In some instances, districts mentioned in the report had poverty rates more than two times that of APS.[3] “Interestingly-enough,” noted Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing, “students in Miami-Dade, which of course has followed the ‘Florida Model’, brought to New Mexico by our Foundation, out-performed APS despite having higher poverty numbers.”

Gessing continued, “Poverty should not be a deciding factor in whether a child is educated or not. That is we have long argued for educational choice and reforms emphasizing accountability. Nonetheless, the worst possible conclusion to draw from the TUDA data is that administrators, parents, and legislators should be pleased because APS students are performing as well as their peers in other major cities, when in reality the students in these cities are in a state of poverty far worse than our own.”

This chart shows where APS is in terms of poverty relative to the other school districts mentioned in the report and which ones outperform APS on 4th grade reading.

 


 

[1] Hailey Heinz, Albuquerque Journal, December 8, 2011, http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/12/08/news/aps-scores-average-on-national-test.html.

[2] APS Test Scores Comparable to Big Cities, December 7, 2001, http://www.aps.edu/news/aps-test-scores-comparable-to-big-cities

[3] US Census Bureau “Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates”: http://www.census.gov/did/www/saipe/district.html

Government Drives Up Health Care Cost

In the Journal of Nov. 28, economist Robert Samuelson claims that health care costs are “out of control.” Quite the opposite: They are totally in control – by the government.
That is a problem.

Health care refers to goods and services delivered by hospitals and providers to be consumed by patients. Costs to providers and institutions are driven more by government regulation and bureaucracy than by labor costs or MRI machines. Meanwhile, payments to providers and institutions – what Samuelson calls “costs” – are controlled by government.

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