Public Education Department outlines agenda/spending increase for legislative session

MLG’s public education department secretary Kurt Steinhaus presented his department’s plans in terms of what they would like out of the 2023 legislative session. If adopted the education budget would rise from $3.8 to $4.1 billion annually (an increase of 7.9%).  PED spending accounts for 45 percent of the total state budget in fiscal year 2023. If this spending proposal is adopted education  spending will have grown from $2.69 billion to $4.1 billion, a massive 54.2 percent increase since just FY 2018.

All that being said, with $2.5 billion (and possibly more) in “new” money available to the Legislature this session, this request isn’t that big. One potential bright spot within this budget is the $23 million allocation for early literacy and reading support and math initiatives, including teacher training and additional literacy coaches.

Steinhaus also proposes using $109.3 million to give all staff 4% pay increases which Steinhaus claims “will help us address the educator workforce crisis and  fill teacher vacancies.”

Will any of this “move the needle” on New Mexico’s education outcomes (which rank dead last)? It’s doubtful. Focus on early reading and literacy can be effective, but must be a center of real focus along with other reforms like those that have worked in Mississippi.

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Pulling back on ABQ’s “free” buses (even slightly) not easy despite rising costs, declining ridership

The plan of two Albuquerque city councilors to eliminate “free for all” ($3 million for the rest of us, in addition to the system’s overall costs) bus ridership has been postponed as of Monday night’s council meeting. As KOB-TV reports:

The proposal details a 25% increase in security calls in just the first few months after the free bus fare program was launched. The state attorney general’s office also claims the shoplifters are using the free buses as getaway vehicles and councilors believe increasing the price could keep away those bad actors.

But, as with any government spending program, even gentle tweaks in the interest of public safety are attacked by well-funded left-wing activists. Check this article out from the left-wing Source. NMIncredibly, there is a well-funded advocacy organization called Together for Brothers that works to make buses “zero-fare” with a focus on “transit justice.”

In a classic Marxian argument the leftist activists claim, “The bus is perceived as more dangerous because of the stigma and bias against the ridership, especially compared to those with the most power.”

According to the City budget the City plans to spend $63,571,000 (a big increase) to service a dramatically-shrinking number of riders. Dividing the budget over the 2021 ridership number comes to: $14.46 per ride. In most cases that’s more than an Uber trip and certainly more convenient.


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The latest on New Mexico’s abysmal (and falling) workforce participation

In her reelection campaign Michelle Lujan Grisham made a lot over the State’s low unemployment rate. Unfortunately, when it comes to workforce participation, not only has New Mexico not come close to achieving pre-pandemic levels, but the State’s participation rate actually DROPPED by .5% from June 2022 to October 2022.

Will the 2022 session include ANY public policy reforms that address New Mexico’s low rate relative to other states? Full chart below and linked.

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NM continues to follow the “Voices” playbook…to dead last

New Mexico has followed the left-wing “playbook” of groups like Voices for Children, not for years, not even just for decades, but for the better part of a century. In a recent op-ed, the head of Voices highlights ways in which the 2022 election further supports their vision of a large government with numerous, “generous” welfare programs.

And, while it is true that New Mexico has had Republicans in the governor’s mansion over the years and not ALL Democrats for the last 92 or so years have been “progressive” in their own day or certainly by modern standards, the reality is that New Mexico has been a liberal bastion in the American Southwest even relative to neighboring Colorado.

Alas, all that money hasn’t helped New Mexico get out of 50th place in Voices’ own report, despite the infusion of massive oil and gas money (which Voices loves to hate). Perhaps it is time for New Mexico to change direction by adopting a more market-driven economy and a choice-driven education system?

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A few more thoughts on election turnout in NM’s most conservative counties

As has been commented on at this site and on some others, voters in some of New Mexico’s most conservative counties did not show up on Election Day 2022.

We have worked through a bunch of calculations using data from the SoS website and have determined that with Mark Ronchetti having lost by 45,467 votes, there is no realistic way for him to have won based on turning out more votes in New Mexico’s most conservative (and underperforming counties) which include: Lea, Roosevelt, Curry, Otero, and Chaves Counties. The populations simply aren’t big enough to put him over the top even at turnout levels exceeding the state average (52.38%).

However, if Yvette Herrell’s home county (Otero) and the areas eligible to vote for her in Lea and Eddy Counties had turned out at the statewide average, Herrell would have closed the 1,350 vote gap with Vasquez and won by a few hundred votes.

As an aside, turnout in New Mexico’s most conservative counties has been an issue in past elections. Just looking at the presidential cycles of 2020 and 2016 we find:

In 2020 statewide turnout was 68.67%

Lea: 55.89%
Eddy 67.31%
Chaves 64.03%

In 2016 statewide turnout was 62.36%

Lea: 52.54%
Eddy: 63.79%
Chaves: 60.39%

Needless to say, voter turnout in Lea County (Hobbs area) in particular tends to lag dramatically  behind the statewide average, but other SE New Mexico counties tend to as well, just not by as much.

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Study’s tally up COVID learning lost: one says total is $900 billion

New Mexico voters may have given MLG a second term, but perhaps the saddest part of that was to reward her poor performance on COVID. And, while her decisions were made 2.5 years ago, the studies highlighting her mistakes (and those of pro-lockdown governors), especially in education continue to come in.

One study highlighted above, found that student learning loss will amount to $900 billion. That study used NAEP test results and extrapolated future earnings based on educational performance. Given NM’s devastating decline in test scores even relative to other states, this will of course be especially challenging.

Furthermore, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal quotes one of the researchers observing that, for eighth-grade students:

College enrollment would fall 2.4%. Meantime, the number of high school dropouts would increase 3.6%, of teen mothers by 3.2%, of the unemployed by 6.6%, and of young men incarcerated by 14.2%.

Finally, as Christopher Jacobs points out in The Federalist, another study analyzing this year’s NAEP results proved what many observers might intuit: The poorest areas suffered worst from learning loss.

More money hasn’t helped New Mexico kids much whether the conversation is pre or post-COVID. MLG certainly hasn’t put forth any detailed education plan. How long do New Mexico kids have to wait?

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Tipping Point NM Episode 459: New report analyzes public sector labor laws by state, New Mexico receives “D-.”

On this week’s interview Paul sits down with Elizabeth Stelle, Director of Policy Analysis at Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation. The organization recently published a comprehensive study and ranking of state policies relating to public employment laws:

The report, “The Battle for Worker Freedom in the States” analyzes state laws that either constrict or increase freedom for public sector workers. Not surprisingly New Mexico ranks poorly in this report at “D-.”

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Back to offices for state employees

Finally, after more than 2.5 years of living with COVID-19, Gov. Lujan Grisham is telling State employees they need to return to their offices on January 1. The Rio Grande Foundation recently spoke to KOAT Channel 7 about the issue and the fact that $18 million annually was being wasted on empty office buildings.

While there is understandably some pushback from government employees to returning to their offices, the fact is that in most cases state workers are better paid with better benefits and less stress than most any other equivalent job.

According to a 2014 report from the American Enterprise Institute New Mexico government employees receive 24% greater overall pay and compensation benefits than their private sector counterparts (that’s “only” 20% if you don’t include job security which we ALL saw the value of during COVID. See chart below:

So, if New Mexico government employees don’t want those jobs anymore, good luck to them. If the State wants to manage up and create clear policies to make sure the work gets done in a telework environment that would be fine, but why do that after 2.5 years? (many complain that government workers didn’t do much work remotely).

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Tipping Point NM Episode 458: Rent Control Bill in NM Legislature, Post-election Questions, Capital Outlay Scandal, Education Spending vs. Achievement

The City of Albuquerque rejected rent control legislation, but a bill will be introduced in the upcoming session.

My opinion piece which ran in papers around the state over the last several days asks some pertinent questions.

A scandal recently exposed by KRQE’s Larry Barker involving New Mexico’s capital outlay process illustrates why passing Amendment 2 was a bad idea and highlights other issues in state/local governance.

Once upon a time Arizona trailed New Mexico in education outcomes (4th grade reading NAEP scores). According to Statista, New Mexico now spends 19th-most among US states on K-12 education (More than $15,000 per-student).

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NM education spending fails to improve results

We at the Rio Grande Foundation may sound like a broken record repeatedly highlighting the disconnect between New Mexico’s education spending and the results of its education system.

Sadly, according to data from Statista (linked and below), New Mexico now spends an astonishing $15,338 per-student on K-12. That is the 19th-highest above states. According to this same chart, both Arizona and Mississippi spend approximately 2/3rds the amount New Mexico spends per-student.

But, as the charts below that show both Mississippi and Arizona have dramatically moved the “needle” on education results including the all-important 4th-grade reading (according to the latest NAEP results).

The case is clear. Arizona and Mississippi are reforming their systems and improving results. New Mexico is spending more money and, if anything, seeing worse results.

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