New Mexico’s lost school year will decrease post-educational earning potential of children from poorest communities 25%

Last school year RGF made a BIG deal about getting New Mexico kids back into their classrooms (here, here, and here). New Mexico’s so-called “progressives” including the Governor herself didn’t do much until Spring of 2021 when she finally decided to return students to their classrooms.

Outgoing PED Secretary Ryan Stewart apparently attempted to float some innovative ideas on getting kids back to in-person school, but obviously the Gov. didn’t push it and the Districts who received their money regardless were simply unwilling or unable to innovate. So, New Mexico students lost more time in classrooms than all but 5 other states. Already in the 2021-2022 school year schools in a few districts have shut down for a time due to COVID. 

And now there’s  this  report  from  the  National  Bureau  of  Economic  Research.

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Not Fair: MLG’s conflicting COVID rules for State Fair/Pride Fest illustrate hypocrisy

There has justifiably been a great deal of discussion/controversy over Gov. Lujan Grisham’s recently-imposed rules requiring vaccinations at the upcoming New Mexico State Fair.

And if you think Gov. Lujan Grisham is somehow basing her decisions on “science” and ensuring that everyone is vaccinated, the fact that  ABQ Pride Fest JUST held its festival at…Expo New Mexico (the State Fairgrounds) with NO vaccine (or testing) requirement should illustrate who the Gov. favors and who she doesn’t.

According to the Gov.’s vaccination order for the Fair, youth who are eligible for the COVID vaccine (12 years or older) must be vaccinated or tested within 48 hours of attending the Fair. The timing of that announcement left little opportunity for those young people who were willing to get the vaccine to actually do so in advance of the Fair which begins on September 9.

Of course, regardless of vaccination status, masks are still required indoors which is yet another dubious rule if all the adults in attendance are vaccinated.  As this excellent piece by Daniel Chacon of the Santa Fe New Mexican notes, there is a great deal of frustration among parents and families of children being impacted. It is also enough to give a headache to policy experts and parents alike.

The most relevant text of the Gov.’s order on the Fair is below:

2021 New Mexico State Fair

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ABQ Calvary Church pastor “gets it” on MLG’s COVID rules

With New Mexico’s Gov. Lujan Grisham having imposed a mask mandate and pushing HARD for New Mexicans to get vaccinated, the pastor of Calvary Church in Albuquerque, Skip Heitzig has put out a strong, principled statement in support of individual freedom. We wish that more community leaders had such a strong, principled stance.

RGF’s president regularly appears on the radio show ABQ Connect hosted by Jim Williams on 88.3 FM.

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Back to school brings big challenges in New Mexico



School has begun for most New Mexico students. While every school year is different, this year is certainly more different than most. For starters, students are returning to “semi-normal” classrooms after 1.5 years of remote learning and relative chaos. Unfortunately, as of this writing schools in Rio Rancho, Carlsbad, Los Lunas, and Roswell have “temporarily” had to again go “virtual.”

Lost classroom time has had a big impact on academic outcomes for New Mexico students. According to the Legislative Finance Committee, the Legislature’s “in-house” think tank, K-12 students in New Mexico have fallen behind anywhere from six months to two years. Furthermore, lost classroom time will widen existing learning gaps, particularly for low-income families.

Many New Mexicans likely assume that students across the nation, not just in New Mexico, spent most of the 2020-2021 school year doing remote learning, that is not the case. According to the Burbio website which tracks various COVID-related policies, Utah students spent more than 80% of the year in their classrooms last year and Colorado students were in their classrooms nearly 65% of the time. New Mexico students were in their classrooms only about 33% of the time. According to Burbio, New Mexico students lost more classroom time than students in all but five other states last year.

Even prior to COVID, we knew that New Mexico students perform worse than students in virtually any other state. Catching up from both the preexisting learning gap and the one created last year is going to be a serious challenge. Unfortunately, New Mexico’s Public Education Department (PED) is in chaos. After just 2.5 years in office, Gov. Lujan Grisham is now on her 4th Education Secretary with the recent departure of Ryan Stewart.

At a July LFC meeting several legislators and tribal leaders raised some difficult questions about the ability of the State’s education system as it currently exists to improve student outcomes.

These were not Republicans who have long been frustrated by the growing K-12 budgets absent improved results. Rather, Democrat Rep. Derrick Lente (Sandia Pueblo) expressed concern for Native American students saying they, “have been left to rot because of where they come from” for many years. How much longer do our children have to fail for us to get this right?” Lente continued.

Another powerful, “progressive” Democrat (just named to the 2nd-highest position in the House) Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque said he had, “started to question whether more money is actually needed beyond what we’ve invested. I think we’re losing steam,” Martinez said, “I’d hate to be back here in 20 years talking about how nothing has changed.”

To say that we at the Rio Grande Foundation concur with these legislators’ concerns would be an understatement. We have long held that robust reforms including both increased choice and accountability are critical to improving New Mexico’s educational performance.

Of course, talking about a problem and taking action to solve it are two very different things. In this year’s 60-day legislative session several “school choice” bills were introduced only to be killed immediately.

Will the upcoming 2022 session be different? That is ultimately up to voters. Across the nation school choice is spreading rapidly in states where education policy is not controlled by unions. Unfortunately, New Mexico’s Legislature is not one of those states. School board elections are coming this fall. If you are concerned about education policy in New Mexico, educate yourself on school board candidates and vote this November. The Rio Grande Foundation’s sister organization Opportunities for All Kids New Mexico is currently surveying school board candidates and publishing the results online.

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

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328 Jordan McGillis – Hyper Regulation of Autos and The End of Natural Gas Appliances

On this week’s podcast, Paul interviews Jordan McGillis. Jordan is Deputy Director of Policy at the pro-energy Institute for Energy Research, a national pro-energy public policy organization.

Paul and Jordan discuss Gov. MLG’s plans to follow California’s lead on hyper-regulating your automobile (here and here) as well as Sen. Heinrich’s plans to do away with your natural gas appliances (and the new study Jordan’s organization has published on the topic).

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RGF talks United Stadium finances on KOAT 7

RGF’s Paul Gessing recently sat down with KOAT TV Channel 7 to discuss financial details for the proposed New Mexico United Soccer stadium. There are more questions than answers at this point in the discussion which is unfortunate given that voters probably won’t have much more information than what is currently known when they go to the polls in November.

The time duration of the bond is ONE question discussed in the story, but the location of the stadium, final cost of the project, and source of money for the difference between the $50 million bond  and the final cost which will be no less than $70 million and perhaps much more are unknown.

In this story Councilor Davis asserts that the “gap” between the $50 million bond and the final cost of the stadium could be somehow filled by leveraging lease payments from the team. Of course no lease payment mechanism has been agreed to at this point, so these are purely speculative statements by Davis both on the payments themselves as well as what, if anything, those could pay for.

Click on the picture or on the link below for the full story .

Click here for a link to the story.



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NM “progressives” nowhere to be found on United Stadium, other “regressive” policies

At the Rio Grande Foundation we pride ourselves on standing on principle. That means that among other things we oppose wasteful government spending and government subsidies for the wealthy (using your tax dollars, of course).

While we are usually at odds with New Mexico’s myriad left-wing groups, it COULD put us in alignment with PRINCIPLED left-leaning groups who, in theory, oppose such “regressive” policies. Unfortunately for New Mexico, most left-leaning organizations in New Mexico are power-seeking, not principled. They support bigger government, not improvements to conditions for the poor. Here is just a brief sampling of issues:

  1. New Mexico United Stadium: takes $50 million plus dollars from average taxpayers in Albuquerque to build a soccer stadium. RGF took a stand along with two “Republican” city councilors (they are non-partisan races). Did any “progressive” group or politicians take a stand?
  2. The State’s education system routinely fails ALL students, most notably poor and minority students. RGF has long called for school choice and other needed reforms only to be thwarted by unions and their supposedly “progressive” political allies.
  3. Back in 2017 the Mayor of Santa Fe pushed for massive tax on soda and sugary drinks which was defeated at the ballot box. Bernie Sanders (a progressive US Senator) publicly opposed a similar tax in Philadelphia which was “fact-checked” as hurting the poor most.
  4. Film subsidies are a classic case of New Mexico tax dollars being shifted from middle and working class taxpayers to wealthy film companies and producers. Alas, no left-leaning group in New Mexico has taken a public stance opposing them.

These are just a few examples of RGF stepping up to fight for “progressive” causes when the actual “progressives” fail to act. We don’t claim to be progressive, just principled.

PolitiFact | Fact-checking Bernie Sanders' claim that Jim Kenney's soda tax is regressive


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Tipping Point New Mexico episode 327: A Sad Week for New Mexico, Nation, Paid Legislators, United Stadium, and More

ABQ City Council votes to put a taxpayer financed United Soccer Stadium on Albuquerque ballots this fall.

It was a depressing week in Albuquerque a 13 year old child was shot and killed at Washington elementary school in what seems like an avoidable tragedy if the father’s numerous run-ins with the law had been addressed.

The US pullout from Afghanistan is in chaos where 20 years of involvement falls apart in a few weeks.

The COVID Delta variant continues to spread w/ Pfizer & Moderna vaccines showing only limited effectiveness.

Biden asks OPEC to increase oil production while he attacks US producers.

Despite a judge’s order, the Administration has NOT restarted issuing permits.

Richard Branson may have flown aboard, commercial spaceflights out of Spaceport America, but commercial flights from the facility won’t happen for another year.

Census data reflect population growth in conservative areas of Southeast New Mexico. 

The Albuquerque Journal acknowledges inflation is becoming a serious issue in several articles, but they don’t have much to say about government policy and how it is creating the problem.

Should the New Mexico Legislature be paid?

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Yet another year before manned space tourism at New Mexico Spaceport

As we have noted frequently in this space, New Mexico’s Spaceport opened on October 11, 2011. While Richard Branson’s much-hyped flight gained international attention and raised hopes for the facility, the recent announcement that manned space tourism flights would not take place for another year (late summer 2022) has to be considered another significant setback for the facility.

Yes, Virgin Galactic wants to launch tourists successfully and frequently, but that doesn’t do much to gain New Mexicans a return on their $225+ million investment. Will the launches actually happen next year? Only time will tell.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin claims it will launch two commercial flights by the end of 2021. 

Spaceport America - Virgin Galactic

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