New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education. Steve Pearce of Hobbs represents southern New Mexico in Congress and is the sole Republican nominee. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: What would early childhood education look like in a Pearce administration. And, if you are supportive of those programs, how would you expand them to smaller communities?
New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the congresswoman from Albuquerque, and is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: Can you lay out what early childhood education would look like in New Mexico under your administration, and how you would get early childhood to rural New Mexico? Michelle Lujan Grisham: Early childhood education would be a hallmark of the administration.
New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education in New Mexico. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. He is a lawyer and small business owner in southern New Mexico. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: What would early childhood education in New Mexico look like in a Cervantes administration?
The three Democratic candidates for governor met in a forum in Las Cruces this week to showcase their plans to change the direction of New Mexico, which has suffered what some economists have called a lost decade after the Great Recession — a period when New Mexico lost more than 50,000 jobs, wages stagnated and more families ended up on public assistance. The evening at the Rio Grande Theatre before a nearly full house was at times testy, with former media executive Jeff Apodaca taking a potshot at frontrunner Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham for skipping previous forums with her opponents in his opener, and lawyer and state Sen. Joe Cervantes calling out Apodaca on his lack of understanding about New Mexico’s water woes in the face of Texas vs. New Mexico and Colorado. But on the whole, the format kept crosstalk at a minimum, with no rebuttals allowed and candidates unable to directly question one another. The three Democratic hopefuls took on a wide array of topics, from legalizing marijuana (Apodaca: legalize, Lujan Grisham: legalize with safeguards, Cervantes: decriminalize), the behavioral health meltdown in the state, the state’s messy tax code, renewable energy plans, and education.
New Mexico school districts that had hoped to put a little more cushion in their budgets managed to persuade a sympathetic Legislature, but couldn’t get it past the governor’s veto pen. When she signed the 2018-2019 budget on March 7, Gov. Susana Martinez struck a line through $5 million state lawmakers had set aside to repay some school districts whose cash accounts had been swept by $40. 3 million to help fill a large budget gap in 2017. Martinez had called the cash accounts of school districts “slush funds.” State superintendents — who drove to the capital en masse during the session to lobby lawmakers for repayment — call them reserve accounts that are used to make large payments like annual insurance, as well as extras like giving teachers stipends to take students to science camp. School leaders said during testimony in Santa Fe that taking the cash out of their accounts had hurt their ability to deal with unexpected expenses.
Is it possible to sneak $41 million into New Mexico’s budget — even after the House has already sent its version over to the Senate? School district leaders are sure going to try. The House Appropriations Committee heard impassioned pleas Wednesday from the Republican sponsor of a bill to pay back public school districts whose cash reserves were taken by the state to plug a gaping hole in the fiscal 2017 budget. Superintendents and school board members from all corners of New Mexico and Albuquerque traveled to the state capitol to show their support for the measure. The effort got a late start because of an unexpected increase of “new money” that was forecast Jan.
There is only a $400,000 difference between what the governor’s office and the Legislature’s budget arm are requesting for the main category of public school funding (that’s the State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG funding, for you education wonks), but there are some interesting departures in the details.
If you are a teacher, you are going to be really interested in those differences. Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski and analysts from the Legislative Finance Committee and the Public Education Department came before a joint meeting of the Senate and House Education committees on Friday to detail their budget proposals for fiscal 2019. For teachers just starting out or who just reached a new teacher level, there could be a $2,000 salary bump in your future if the LFC gets its way, plus a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase. If the PED plan prevails in negotiations, all teachers will receive a 2 percent across the board salary increase, with other school personnel receiving a 1 percent cost of living increase. Then, exemplary teachers would be up for a one-time $5,000 bonus and exemplary high school math or science teachers would be eligible for up to $10,000.
In her final State of the State address, Gov. Susana expressed her frustration over seven years of reform efforts that have been fought by some school districts and pointedly called out teachers’ unions and the Albuquerque Public Schools for dragging their heels to the detriment of students.
Students in New Mexico are nowhere near prepared to go to college, join the workforce or engage in our democracy, according to closing arguments filed this week by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF, in a lawsuit against the state. The groups, representing families and school districts, say the state Public Education Department isn’t providing the resources needed to properly educate its students, in violation of the state Constitution. “The problem is that for years the state has starved our public schools and denied our children the educational supports and programs and services they need so that they can learn and thrive,” said Gail Evans, legal director for the Center, who said she expects a decision from District Court Judge Sarah Singleton by the spring. Lawyers for the state PED agree that New Mexico schools need to improve and concede the job of the schools is to make students college and career ready. But that’s about all they agree on.
I began looking for Cleveland High School’s report card with the simple Google search “New Mexico school report cards.” The first listing was School Grading – New Mexico Public Education Department. I followed the link straight to PED’s school grading portal. It was easy enough from there to get to the Rio Rancho school district and the high school. Clicking on the map marker (labeled with an A), I was able to bring up a link to Cleveland’s report card. Yep, it’s an A-grade school.