Just how is Gov. Martinez hurting students?

In today’s Albuquerque Journal, the author argues that “privatization” is hurting New Mexico’s education system. His only actual argument is that “for-profit enterprise reserves some part of each dollar for product development, marketing, promotion, and profit, that private companies are skimming off taxpayer dollars that should go to our children.”

The author is essentially making the argument that monopolies are the most efficient economic model because there is no duplication of resources. After all, education systems already contract with for-profit textbook manufacturers, bus companies, and software providers for a variety of services. If anything, these businesses, operating in more or less competitive markets (especially for software) are far superior in quality and cost to anything that could be developed by governments. These companies produce superior products and services, not in spite of, but actually as a result of the competitive pursuit of profits.

A second undercurrent of the opposition to certain virtual charters and private sector involvement has arisen due to the fact that many of these private-sector providers are from (horrors) outside New Mexico. The view that “all good things come from New Mexico” is powerful among many who use it as a political bludgeon against anyone they oppose. And, while there may be some truth to the fact that our green chiles are the best, it is hard to argue that New Mexico-built automobiles (there are none that I’m aware of) are superior to those from other states.

It makes no economic sense to limit ourselves to providers from any geographic area, especially in the realm of education software. Most of the costs of any school are tied to teachers, not software, and the idea that we should rely on “home grown” products because taxpayer dollars are at stake is just silly and a recipe for disaster. Imagine only “New Mexico made” computers in our classrooms with New Mexico made chalk boards, desks, and textbooks. It’s just DUMB! It is far more important to obtain the best goods and services for our children’s education than it is where the given tool was created.