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.

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6 Replies to “K-12 Education “Cuts?””

  1. Paul Gessing and the Rio Grande Foundation can cite statistics all they want, but facts are facts.

    And, the facts are — before 1982, 60% of New Mexico’s state budget was invested in K-12 and higher education.

    That was before state legislators and the governor changed the law which used property tax revenues to pay for our schools, colleges and universities.

    In 1982, state lawmakers decided they, instead of property owners, would take legal responsibility (and, accountability) for paying for New Mexico’s public education system.

    With what? Revenues from state income taxes, gross receipt taxes, and a very small amount of the return on the Wall Street investment of New Mexico’s Permanent School Fund (see NM State Constitution, Article 12, Section 2).

    A side note: the Permanent School Fund is one of the world’s largest educational endowments. It’s worth billions of dollars!

    Now back to the real story: Have you ever heard a state lawmaker who runs for re-election say, “Vote for me, and I’ll raise your taxes to fund your schools.” ? ? ?

    Well, the rest is history. Today, New Mexico’s lawmakers invest only 40% of the state budget in our schools, colleges and universities.

    It’s no wonder our students are performing so poorly. It’s not only their parents’ fault, it’s also the fault of those who control the purse strings: Your state senator and state representative.

    More facts about how New Mexico has cut revenues for its educational system, and why raising revenues is the only way out of the deficit mess, will be revealed during a debate this month in Santa Fe.

    A debate that Paul has agreed to participate in.

    1. A cut is a cut and an increase is an increase. We’re spending more now per-pupil than we did in 1992 according to the US Census. It doesn’t matter what percentage of the budget it is. Real spending has risen dramatically!

  2. The 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one is talking about in the most recent reincarnation of the school reform debate, is the issue of teacher performance.

    As indicated in the LA Times articles about the LA public schools (partially republished in the Alb Journal last year), the best measure of teacher competence is value added test scores. The Journal reported that APS has had these scores since 2007 – but APS refuses to release the results to the public. I assume the test results have not been released to the public because of ferocious opposition from the teachers’ union.

  3. The bottom line – look at our RESULTS. Throwing all our money at this PROBLEM has not gotten us a thing. Two teacher unions and all the talk that it is always about the “kids”. Enough is really ENOUGH! Democrats, your stuff does not work. We have had 50 years of this BS. Time to move on folks.

  4. When people resort to mathematical trickery to make an increase look like a decrease, nothing good is happening. There is not now, nor has there ever been any positive correlation between dollars per pupil expenditures and educational outcomes. Anyone who can show one is hiding data.
    Then fundamental problem is that we’ve reduced education to budgets and not focused on achievement. It is widely known that in major eastern urban school districts with high minority populations that they have the highest per-pupil expenditures and the absolute worst outcomes (Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Philadelphia are a few examples).
    The teacher’s unions monopoly on the debate needs to be broken, and the administrators held to account for their failures. Public records (like those test scores) need to become public again, and the disinfectant of sunshine applied liberally to our educational institutions. We’ve been ripped off for years by the education establishment, and it’s long past time that it stopped.

  5. As a retired Educator/Administrator we have to much invested in property that is under utilized. Our systems need to be overhauled but, not the way most teacher unions want. Money is not the problem except that most Administrators don’t look to cut their budgets only increase them. I think they are related to politicians.

    Courses of study have been watered down and sports are emphasized to much. Cost of sports programs are outrageous. We do not do enough early intervention for students at the lower levels of school.

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