Self Esteem No Help for Math Scores

Self esteem is a good thing, but it doesn’t help American students with their math problems.
Six percent of Korean eighth-graders in a recent survey expressed confidence in their math skills, compared with 39 percent of U.S. eighth-graders. Yet an international math assessment showed Koreans scoring far ahead of their peers in the United States, “raising questions about the importance of self-esteem,” notes writer Jay Mathews in “For Math Students, Self-Esteem May Not Equal High Scores.”
With New Mexico students trailing behind the rest of the country and the country as a whole trailing behind much of the world, it is clear that big changes are needed here and in the American education system as a whole.

Bias at UNM Law School?

Recently, on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal, there has been a debate over whether or not the law school at the University of New Mexico is biased to the left of the political spectrum. Asserting that there is rampant bias at UNM was Christina Hoff-Summers of the American Enterprise Institute while the Dean of UNM’s law school weighed in to assert that there is no bias at the school.
Unfortunately, conservatives who complain about bias at NPR, on PBS, and in the universities should realize that bias is inevitable at institutions that depend on government largesse for their existence. These people are not going to bite the big-government hand that feeds them and when it comes down to it, unless they say or do soemthing truly outrageous as the University of Colorado’s Ward Churchill did a while back, these people are pretty secure in their rather cushy jobs.
Perhaps then, libertarians and conservatives should agree to work together not to change the party identifications of those who are hired and fired at these government-supported institutions, but to privatize them entirely. Michigan and Virginia law schools are de facto privatized and even Berkely is considering the idea. How about it UNM?

Richardson Agrees: Tax Cuts In Order for New Mexicans

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have had our share of problems with some of Governor Richardson’s economic policies, but we wholeheartedly agree with his recent assertion that tax cuts are in order here in New Mexico. That said, however, if the purpose of cutting taxes is economic growth, his narrowly-targeted proposal will have a negligible impact.
Instead, we suggest, as we have in the past, that Governor Richardson continue reducing the state income tax to the point of complete elimination. Blanket rate reductions are always better than narrowly-targeted tax cuts and reducing the top rate further would have a significant, positive economic impact.

New Mexico Needs Tax and Spending Limits

The Rio Grande Foundation of New Mexico today published a study that once-and-for-all shatters the myth that Bill Richardson is a fiscal conservative and makes the case for Colorado-style tax and spending limits.
Among other facts brought to light:
Governor Richardson is not just a bigger-spender than former-Governor Gary Johnson, but he is the biggest spender relative to the growth of inflation and population among the last four New Mexico governors (2 Republicans and 2 Democrats);
The average personal income of a New Mexican is approximately $10,000 less than that of the average Coloradoan;
New Mexico not only receives more taxpayer dollars from Washington relative to what its citizens pay in taxes than any other state (yes, we even beat out Alaska), but New Mexico also has more state and local employees per capita than any state but Alaska and Wyoming.
Only by giving taxpayers greater control over tax and spending decisions can New Mexico achieve its full potential.

Vouchers Encourage Integration

A tip of the hat to Arwynn Mattix with the Goldwater Institute for this posting.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), “A pure voucher system would only encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society.” One wonders how the NEA could reach this conclusion when both the Milwaukee and Cleveland voucher experiences show otherwise.
Rather than encourage stratification, these voucher programs lead to even less segregation, according to two recent reports by the Friedman Foundation. Private schools participating in the programs were found to be 13 to 18 points less segregated than their public school counterparts.
Because students are assigned to public schools based on where they live, there is a significant risk that schools will reflect the racial and economic segregation of neighborhoods. But, “Private schools have more potential to break down geographic barriers, drawing students together across neighborhood boundaries,” explains Greg Forester, author of the reports. And, with the help of vouchers and tuition scholarships, private schools become affordable for more families, eliminating the financial obstacle to private school.
If “America’s success has been built on our ability to unify our diverse populations,” as the NEA claims, then doesn’t their anti-voucher position block the way to an even more successful America?

Gangster Politicians

Check this video on eminent domain out. The sad thing is that gangsters’ views of our property rights are little different from those of our political leaders. Worse still for New Mexicans, while this video was made by a Nevada group supporting an initiative that will be on the ballot to protect property owners this fall, we don’t have the citizen initiative and must rely on Governor Richardson and others to pass necessary protections.

NM College Freshman not Ready

Given New Mexico’s poor track record on K-12 education, it is no surprise that many of the students entering New Mexico colleges and universities are ill-prepared. But, as the Albuquerque Journal editorialized on Wednesday, it is shocking just how unprepared students are. According to the editorial, “High-performing states have 64 percent of students in upper-level math classes and 40 percent in upper-level science, New Mexico has 35 percent and 21 percent.” The study, which includes a table indicating that New Mexico students receive an “F” in preparation and “D” in completion of their college educations is available here.
The problem here is two-pronged, but in both cases it is caused by government: 1) The simplest way to address student unpreparedness is to reform the K-12 monopoly and put parents back in charge of their child’s education. Only this accountability will cause educational outputs to improve because nobody cares as much about kids as their parents. 2) Rather than using oil and gas revenues to subsidize college tuition for New Mexico students, our colleges and universities need the freedom to adopt real standards and be able to go after the best-qualified students. A merit-based system, not gussied up welfare, will make our higher-education system world class and will force New Mexico’s students that want to go to college to improve their achievement.

Taxpayers’ Asserting their Rights Nationwide

After last year’s much-publicized battle over Referendum C and Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, the conventional wisdom among the media was that the movement to create constitutional protections for taxpayers was dead.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, voters in Maine, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon, will decide this November whether to adopt their own versions of Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Although New Mexico does not have the initiative and referendum process available to its constituents as these other states, the Rio Grande Foundation is working to start the discussion on a similar measure for New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session. Check back soon for information on the need for such taxpayer protections.

All Aboard Mayor Marty’s Crazy Train?

Last night, I attended one of the City of Albuquerque’s meetings on Mayor Chavez’s so-called “Modern Streetcar Project.” It wasn’t so much a meeting involving give-and-take between community leaders and residents as it was a sales pitch from the City’s Transit Department and the HDR Company which will manage the project.
There was a 30-minute powerpoint presentation and a Q & A session, which did feature lively debate, but the only elected official who actually showed up, Councilman Heinrich, left immediately after making a short introduction. Most of the attendees appeared skeptical of the $224 million project and justifiably so. Although this meeting was designed to convey the sense that this project is a “done-deal,” information on expected ridership numbers, operating costs and subsidies, fares, and operating hours was in short supply.
A few things struck me as particularly troubling:
First and foremost, Heinrich and others constantly compared the $224 million streetcar to the Big I interchange reconstruction which cost $230 million to complete. There is no doubt that the Big I carries exponentially more people and goods than the streetcar will ever carry.
Secondly, while the Mayor’s trolley will be paid for by all taxpayers whether they ride or not, the Big I was largely paid for by motorists and truckers themselves through gas taxes and other fees. There simply is no comparison between the two projects as far as importance to the community is concerned.
Lastly, the people pushing this project say Portland is supposed to be our model. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Albuquerque is only 60 percent as dense as Portland and Albuquerque’s metropolitan area has only 40 percent as many people (797,000 as compared to 2 million).
I’m really only scratching the surface of the arguments against this and other rail projects, but as was made clear last night, we won’t have a chance to vote on this. Pressuring City Council to oppose this boondoggle is the only way to stop it.