Judge demands more education spending, what’s next?

On Friday, Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that New Mexico’s K-12 funding is “inadequate.” I read the 75 page decision and there is not a great deal of new information or especially interesting reasoning, but I did learn that “there are four states, including New Mexico, that require that the education be adequate or sufficient.” However, three states require that the education be high quality, and nine states require that it be suitable.

Obviously this is the kind of “positive right” that conservatives and libertarians often decry as education is something that demands money be extracted from one group and allocated to another group.

What is an “adequate” amount? High quality? How about “suitable?” These are terms with very little meaning and they invite judges like Singleton to legislate from the bench.

Worse, while we at the Rio Grande Foundation have offered numerous solutions aimed at improving our K-12 over the years including: various forms of school choice, teacher pension reform, focusing education $$$ on the classroom, and licensing reform, these are (not surprisingly) not the remedies sought by the plaintiffs (MALDEF and the NM Center on Law and Poverty). Rather, we have a demand for more money.

Forget the fact that according to the US Census Bureau New Mexico spends more per student than any of it neighbors.

Adjusted for cost of living and incomes New Mexico’s K-12 spending is 6th-highest in the nation.

And that our teachers are also paid more than those in any of our neighboring states. More money is the solution.

I expect that Gov. Martinez will appeal this decision. The results of the Governor’s race will likely have an impact on what ultimately happens here. Should Michelle Lujan-Grisham be elected she’ll be in a tough spot (as will Democrats in the Roundhouse). They desperately want to EXPAND pre-K (using the permanent fund if possible). But they don’t want to be seen as defying a judge’s call for higher K-12 spending.

Would they be able to do both at the same time? Oil revenues may be adequate right now to provide a massive boost to K-12 spending, but if the Democrats get both, they will need to see some pretty impressive results. Sure, we’re talking a decade from now, but a massive new “investment” in K-12 could create an expectation of results that the Democrats may not be ready to embrace.

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