K-12 Education “Cuts?”

Rarely have I seen eye-to-eye with regular opinion piece writer Dr. Jose Armas. On Sunday, I thought that was going to change with this opinion piece. It starts out well enough with discussion of New Mexico’s well-documented education failings, applauds Governor Martinez, and generally talks about the need for change to improve education.

Then he states the following:

Let’s dispel the myth that we’re throwing money at education. New Mexico has been steadily cutting education budgets for decades.

My friend Republican Gov. Dave Cargo told me that his education budget was nearly 55 percent of state spending. Another friend, Democratic Gov. Jerry Apodaca, says his was over 50 percent. That was in the 1970s. Today’s budget has dwindled to 45 percent. And the current proposed cuts threatens to chop education funding to 42 percent.

While I don’t deny that as a percentage of the overall budget, K-12 may be a lower percentage than it used to be, Armas is flat-out wrong in stating that “New Mexico has been cutting education budgets for decades.”

Instead of assertions, let’s look at the Census data. Starting in 1992, when New Mexico spent $3,835 annually per-pupil (according to Table 16).

According to the handy-dandy inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What would we be spending today if per-pupil expenditures rose at the rate of inflation? According to the BLS, it would be $6,139.83.

What is actually being spent per-pupil? According to page xiii of this document from the Census Bureau, back in 2008, New Mexico was spending $9,068. In other words, per-pupil K-12 spending in New Mexico is more than a third higher IN REAL TERMS than it was back in 1992. That is hardly the picture Armas draws.

The fact is that New Mexico’s schools need dramatic reform, not more money.