First and foremost, I want to thank the folks at New Mexico Voices for Children and Veronica Garcia in particular for inviting me to their inaugural “Kids Count” rollout. I went because, while RGF and Voices don’t agree on much, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to learn about some new data and share views with those who may not agree with us.
There was a lot of useful data, albeit much of it depressing, as New Mexico is ranked 50th in the report. If you want some other unsettling information, check out my recent presentation on “How do we rate?”
So, the news is not good, we get it. But what does it all mean? Here are 4 points that encapsulate my take on the event and the poverty/educational system in New Mexico:
1) Poverty is the root cause of most of New Mexico’s problems. Liberals and conservatives certainly disagree on how to solve poverty. In fact, I recently debated Nick Estes (formerly of NM Voices) on inequality (which ultimately was about poverty). It goes without saying that the RGF perspective is that limited government, free trade, and the rule of law (not government programs) create prosperity. Left-liberals support more government spending on social welfare programs and increased regulations like higher minimum wages.
2) It is good to see the folks at NM Voices and the Annie E. Casey Foundation (which is behind the Kids Count report) discussing the importance of reading by 3rd grade. We have been talking about 3rd grade reading for four years (see presentation here and paper here.) We agree that learning to read by 3rd grade is important (as do Gov. Martinez and Education Secretary Skandera) and would love to see Voices step up to support accountability and choice measures that have been shown to improve 3rd grade reading scores in other states like Florida.
3) The keynote speaker at the event (from Annie E. Casey) repeatedly spoke of “a politics-free-zone” for education” and that this was somehow a goal that New Mexicans and people in other states should get behind. This sounds like a great talking point, but as long as the government is demanding tax money and then spending 12 or more years indoctrinating my child (whether for better or worse) in a program administered by no less than three government bodies (the federal government, the state, and the school board), how exactly is this supposed to be “politics-free?”
If you want politics-free education, leave the money with the parents and let THEM pick the school that is best for them and their child and let charities handle educating those whose families can’t afford it.
4) It is interesting when so-called “progressives” complain about the status quo in New Mexico as if they had no part in making our state 50th. After all, outside of the office of governor (which has flipped back and forth in recent years), New Mexico has been controlled from top to bottom by politicians of the liberal/progressive mindset. As I’ve written about before, the Legislature has been controlled by one party for nearly all of New Mexico’s existence with the exception of just a few years. The Courts and legal system have been under the control of the same people. And yet we are 50th in so many things that these very same liberal/progressives claim to want to change!!!
In conclusion, it is good to have these discussions. I don’t have to agree with the folks at Voices to have a discussion and learn something new. Now, if we can only get them to attend a few RGF events!
ADDENDUM: Leave it up to the hyper-political far-lefties at ProgressNow New Mexico to attempt to divert attention from the failure of New Mexico’s “progressive” public policies with a press release blaming Gov. Martinez and her vetoes for the fall to 50th. The same report put NM at 48th back in 2008. Perhaps the problem is the “progressive” left-wing Legislature?