BY PAUL J. GESSING
Rio Grande Foundation
In October of last year, results for the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) placed New Mexico dead-last in education among all states, the District of Columbia, and DoD schools. The test covered reading for 4th and 8th graders and math for the same age groups. New Mexico was last across all categories. These results should have been a wakeup call for Gov. Lujan Grisham and the Legislature.
Bold solutions are needed and there’s no time like a 60-day session to enact big reforms. Unfortunately, as the legislative session hurtles onward, neither serious education reform nor prevention of future mistakes like those made during the COVID pandemic are likely to come to pass.
As a parent, I know first-hand that the Gov.’s COVID 19 lockdowns and chaos had a major, negative impact on young people. Kept out of their classrooms for over a year, often in rural areas with poor broadband service and working parents, it is no surprise that New Mexico students suffered more during the Pandemic than those living in wealthier “blue” states. Locking kids out of school is now widely seen as a mistake that had no noticeable impact on the spread of COVID.
Sadly, efforts to give the Legislature a seat at the table in future emergencies, HB 80 and HJR 3 (one was a bill, the other an amendment), both failed on party lines in the House Judiciary Committee. They would have simply required the Legislature to approve declared emergencies lasting longer than 90 days, but that was too much for the majority Democrats.
Having the Legislature debate and vote on whether to lock kids out of their schools for over a year shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
COVID is hardly the only reason for New Mexico schools’ poor performance. The system has always been near the very bottom in producing student outcomes. Sadly, aside from continuing to spend more and more money, the Legislature and Gov. remain unwilling to shake up the system in ways that would improve outcomes.
My organization has long pushed for “money to follow the student.” The best single bill