Thoughts on New Mexico being 50th in Kids Count

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?

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13 Replies to “Thoughts on New Mexico being 50th in Kids Count”

  1. The “poverty” card has been played by educators and politicians in N.M. to explain our miserable school results for decades. The other is lack of money. “Give us more money and we will correct the problem.”

    But if poverty is the key, why is it that boat people coming from Asia or Cuba, who arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, have risen so high ,in disproportionate numbers, in just one generation? It’s because their parents inculcated in the children the importance of an education and academic achievement. Why did the parents do so? Because they came from a culture that stressed the importance of education. Why is it that some cultures stress education more than others? That is the politically incorrect question that is seldom asked and never answered in N.M.

  2. The way to break the cycle of poverty is to persuade parents to send their children to school, keep them there until they graduate and dissuade teenagers from having babies. No amount of government money can do this. What’s missing in New Mexico is community institutions that address real problems. The Hispanic-interest groups are more concerned about speaking Spanish in supermarkets than in building communities, and the churches are largely invisible.

  3. I don’t believe poverty is the root cause of most of NM’s problems. It is the result of a bigger problem: kids having kids. And THAT is where the poverty begins. We have stupid kids who are having sex and they KNOW they will likely get pregnant. We have teenage boys who have no jobs and can’t pay child support, who tell the little twits that they love them. Right. We have teenage girls who are so promiscuous that they don’t even know the name of the boy who got them pregnant. The kids are so uneducated, that they haven’t the basic education to be a parent and teach their children how to grow up and be a productive citizen. But how could they–their parents aren’t exactly role models for that. We have generations of families on welfare, and they think they are “entitled” to it. Until our government stands up and has the common sense to say: NO MORE, we taxpayers will continue to pay for those who are stupid and make bad choices. (I am not referring to the mentally disabled here.)

    I often hear that everyone is entitled to one mistake? Really. Then I guess if someone shoots another person, that is their one entitled mistake, at least by the logic of people with that mentality. I didn’t have a child out of wedlock, and I certainly would not have had children if I could not afford them. Common sense says that! I already have to pay to feed these dumb teenagers’ kids in school, notwithstanding, if they didn’t get a meal, they could not learn. But feeding their children is THEIR JOB, not the rest of us taxpayers.

    It is amazing that when I see people using food stamps (EBT card), they have the expensive cuts of meat and all kinds of prepared food (instead of learning how to cook and using actual food and not processed food). I see the women with their acrylic nails (at a cost of $25/wk). And then I see these people get into their $40K trucks. Wow! What a lifestyle, while the rest of us sweat it out in jobs. Until the government gets smart and asks these people the real questions (like, why isn’t the 25-yr old working; and her answer to her friends is–because then she wouldn’t get food stamps–talk about a sick mentality) and makes people ACCOUNTABLE (what a concept!), we are heading to an entire welfare state where half the state will be on welfare, courtesy of taxpayers like me.

    The poverty rate is, in my opinion, a false and inflated number. People who could work just are not working, and our system enables them to be that way.

  4. A very timely article as today’s (June 29) Albuquerque Journal lead editorial is about the APS funding full time athletic directors at all high school to properly run the high school sports programs at a cost of only around $ 800,000 per year. Yet too many “graduates” of high school are NOT reading at grade level on graduation, if they graduate in four years. The percent going on to college is still near the bottom of all states.

    So, why is spending on athletics so important? Can School Board Member Marty or Superintendent Winston tell us what is important at APS? Not academic programs, that is very clear.

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