Tipping Point NM episode 217: COVID-19, Schools, Restaurants, Mask Shaming, Oil and Gas, Single-Payer Health Care

On this week’s discussion podcast, Paul and Wally start out by providing a quick update on the back and forth in the Courts regarding dining at restaurants. The Environment Department releases data seemingly showing that restaurants ARE a primary source of COVID 19 spread, but further analysis of the data indicates otherwise.

This dovetails with a discussion of Gov. MLG’s latest orders which shut schools shut down for in-person learning until after Labor Day.

In a finger waving press conference the Gov. shames New Mexicans…“I can see you at the airports. I can see you on Facebook….”

Despite the Gov.’s aggressive stances and return to a more locked-down situation, according to Wallethub we are “only” the 42ndmost open state in the US.

Heather MacDonald’s piece in May/June Imprimis published by Hillsdale College is worth reading about the COVID 19 madness.

A chart from the New York Times shows that homeschooling is not just for the well-off.

Private schools will have to adhere to portions of MLG’s orders, but will they? Paul sees potential conflict between the State and schools.

What’s the latest on oil and gas production in NM? Paul and the folks at the Foundation wondered.

Santa Fe New Mexican profiles Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

Single-payer health care in New Mexico would be very expensive according to the findings of a new report commissioned by the Legislature.

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Tipping Point NM episode 216 – Lisa Conyers – Welfare for the Rich

On this week’s interview, Paul talks to Lisa Conyers. Lisa was a speaker at a Rio Grande Foundation event a few years back on the Human Cost of Welfare.

Now, she has a new book “Welfare for the Rich” in which she details the numerous ways in which our tax dollars are redistributed by Federal and state governments, but not to the poor and working classes. Rather, much of this government largesse goes to the wealthiest Americans.

Lisa Conyers – Medium

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Rio Grande Foundation signs onto amicus brief in Michigan v. DeVos supporting non-public schools

The Rio Grande Foundation has signed onto an amicus brief filed Wednesday in Michigan v. DeVos, a critical legal dispute in federal court between a group of state attorneys general (including New Mexico’s Hector Balderas) and the federal Education Department over the availability of CARES Act funding for private schools. The Foundation joins a coalition of 38 state and national groups representing the interests of private schools and parental choice.

As Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing pointed out, “The Rio Grande Foundation has long held that education dollars should fund students, not bureaucracies. COVID-19’s impact on America’s students was not confined to public school sectors. Congress allocated critical funding to both public and private schools with the intent of helping schools reopen safely and serve their students.”

Background: The $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, included an Education Stabilization Fund to support schools with the costs of safely reopening and navigating the crisis. The law directed the Department of Education to distribute these funds “equitably” between public and private schools and students but did not dictate exactly how the funds should be distributed.

On June 25, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an interim final rule that gives states and local public-school districts options for how to fairly allocate CARES Act relief to private schools. Many states and local school districts refused to follow the rule. Nine attorneys general and four metropolitan school districts, including Balderas filed a multi-state federal lawsuit against the Education Department challenging the interim final rule and argued that the majority of the funding should be directed to public schools.

This amicus, on behalf of 38 state and national groups, represents the important interests of America’s private schools in this critical debate. COVID-19’s impact on education was not restricted to public schools. With more than 5 million students attending 33,000 schools, WILL and our coalition partners make clear that federal CARES Act relief is critical for the safety and education of the nearly 10% of American students attending private schools.

WILL’s amicus is joined by associations and advocacy groups that represent and support private schools and their families in Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and throughout the nation, that serve Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Lutheran, other Christian, and independent secular schools, and that collectively educate millions of students.


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My family will home school this fall. Other families should have options as well.

The following opinion piece appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on Sunday, July 26, 2020:

As the head of New Mexico’s free market think tank and a frequent critic of New Mexico’s K-12 system, many are surprised to hear that my two school-age children have been in traditional public schools throughout their educational careers. That will change this fall due to COVID 19 and the policies being imposed by the State. According to numerous reports, parents across our nation are doing the same.

This crisis and our response to it is an opportunity for policymakers to reconsider how education works in the State of New Mexico. As a reminder, New Mexico has perpetually found itself among the lowest-performing education systems in the nation. Innovative thinking, especially policies that redirect funding to students as opposed to bureaucracies, could have positive impacts now and in the future.

While we at the Rio Grande Foundation are often critical of the powers that be in New Mexico education policy, this is not the case regarding COVID 19 and the reopening plans. In fact, our usual criticism is a systemic one and that is the situation here. The idea that one model of schooling makes sense for all students in normal times is faulty. Now, with such widely-variable views on COVID 19 and the appropriate response to it (not to mention the different educational needs for students of different ages and abilities) developing solutions that satisfy everyone is impossible.

For my family with elementary school aged children, the combination of mask wearing throughout the day and “social distancing” being imposed was a deal-breaker. And, while I support “virtual” or “hybrid” learning for some children, I simply don’t think the schools or educators are ready to deploy them on a large scale in an effective manner. We saw this firsthand in spring when the schools suddenly shut down.

Hopefully, school systems have better plans in place now, but the situation remains fluid and chaotic. New Mexico students are already behind due to lost months at the end of last school year. The chaos of masks in the classroom and a hybrid/virtual model that is completely new and unfamiliar to many students and teachers is not likely to lead to improved outcomes.

That is not just unfortunate: it is tragic.

My family is blessed. We can make home schooling work and we’ve already spent considerable time preparing for this big change. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all New Mexico families, especially low-income and minority families.

The COVID 19 situation leaves no “easy” choices, but with so many New Mexicans looking for educational options or even taking on the task of educating their own children, shouldn’t the tax dollars they pay into the system follow the child? Shouldn’t parents have resources made available to purchase computers and other curriculum materials for their children or, if they prefer, shouldn’t they be able to send their child to the school of their own choice? All of these choices involve major time and financial sacrifices by parents in tough economic times. Rather than penalizing these families, we believe the funding should follow the child and help them directly.

South Carolina’s Governor just announced the state will use $32 million to fund low-income families directly this fall. The scholarships are worth up to $6,500 each. These are the solutions that should be happening in New Mexico. Families are paying taxes for a school system that in times of “normalcy” is considered “inadequate” (Yazzie lawsuit). With many limitations and adjustments being made now, that system and the families it serves now face greater challenges than ever before.

I truly feel for our children who have lost so much already. The Legislature and Governor have long claimed to care for our children. It is time to call their bluff and fund children, not bureaucracies.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Homeschooling mother teaching kids private lessons in geography

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The Challenge and Potential of Base Closure as Viewed from Roswell, New Mexico

The Loss of a military base can be a traumatic experience for any community. Roswell experienced this phenomenon a little over 50 years ago when Walker AFB was shuttered.

In the new Rio Grande Foundation policy paper, Roswell and Walker AFB Closure: History, Analysis, and Lessons Learned,” authors Paul Gessing along with Raul Ayala and Colin McGlinchey study the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process and how Walker AFB was closed (preceding the creation of the BRAC process by nearly two decades). 

In addition to BRAC, the analysts look at how Walker AFB transitioned to the Roswell Air Center (RAC) and how that process has gone. They also compare that transition and its impact to BRAC processes in other rural areas. Finally, the report offers a few thoughts on the current situation at RAC as well as considerations for state and local policymakers and considers the impact that the dramatic slowdown in air travel due to COVID 19 is having on RAC and its prospects for success.

The study offers a robust overview of the history of base closures dating back to the closing of Walker AFB and how the Vietnam era spate of base closings ultimately led to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process that is in place today.

The authors acknowledge the pain and challenges that the loss of Walker AFB caused the Roswell community. Nonetheless they argue that the BRAC process is arguably the greatest federal spending reduction effort of all time. And, if the BRAC process had been around when Walker closed (and the relevant federal programs made available), it might have benefitted the Roswell community.

The completely unexpected COVID 19 crisis which has had a devastating toll on the global airline industry has actually boosted the viability of the Roswell Air Center and its repair/maintenance operations.

Ultimately, the authors conclude, rural areas like Roswell inherently face more challenges than urban ones in recovering from a base closure. Big urban areas have numerous advantages including a “critical mass” of businesses and population, a demand for “prime real estate,” and proximity to supply chains. That being said, changing the relatively business-unfriendly policies of the State of New Mexico would help communities like Roswell attract businesses that would put facilities like Walker AFB (now the Roswell Air Center) to more economical use in the long-term.

Walker Air Force Base: A Hispanic Perspective - Focus NM

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Upcoming RGF media appearances: “Issues and Answers” on KCHF Channel 11

Set your recorders, RGF’s Paul Gessing sits down for “Issues and Answers” with host Diane Kinderwater on KCHF Channel 11 (statewide) to discuss the COVID 19 situation and how it is impacting important parts of our state including K-12 education and the economy. The show runs for 30 minutes. Tune in!
Issues and Ansewrs

The program schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, July 29:
Show runs at both 10am and 11:30am
Sunday, August 2:
11:30 P.M.
Tuesday, August 4:
10:30 p.m
Friday, August 14:
Saturday, August 15:
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Home schooling: it’s not just for rich/well off

The following chart form the New York Times caught our attention at RGF especially with home schooling becoming a more likely choice for many families here in New Mexico (including the head of the Foundation) and around the nation.

The point is that home school families ARE NOT necessarily wealthy. In fact, as the chart shows, the ranks of families of middle or low-incomes that home school are actually higher than for all families with kids.

Of course, home schooling essentially precludes two full-time worker families, so the data have that inherent limitation. As RGF has discussed, with the chaos impacting New Mexico’s traditional educational models, it is high time for dollars to follow students, not flow to bureaucracies.

We will be tracking the dramatic changes and shifts in New Mexico’s K-12 education system as they develop both in Santa Fe and at home.

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