This fall, voters in the Albuquerque Public Schools service area have some important issues to consider when they vote. For starters, it has been well-documented that in each of the four seats up for election this fall, none of the incumbents will appear on the ballot. In other words, the APS school board is in for some significant changes, no matter what the results are.
What that change looks like will be up to the voters.
My organization, OAKNM, sent surveys to all candidates for school board in APS and numerous other larger school districts across the state to ask for candidates’ views on big issues facing school boards. In Albuquerque, these included everything from splitting APS into multiple districts to masking kids and the role of charter schools.
Whether candidates completed these and other surveys or not, there are two clear sets of candidates: those who support and receive support from the unions and those who don’t. Typically, union support has been the deciding factor in local school board races, but, with this election occurring at the same time as the Albuquerque mayoral and City Council elections – not to mention the United soccer stadium vote – everyone expects higher turnout than seen in the past.
As an education reformer, this makes me happy. Given everything our kids have gone through over the past 18 months, our education system, already ranked at the bottom, failed our children completely. Of course, we don’t know just how badly because the state’s standardized test for 2020 and 2021 was administered to only a fraction of the student population, or not at all. Estimates vary, but we’ve seen figures for lost time ranging from a few weeks to more than a year.
Do you believe the situation was handled well? Do you think it was appropriate for unions to play an outsized role in reopening, masking and even vaccination policies during the pandemic? Are you concerned that the Sheryl Williams Stapleton scandal is only the tip of the iceberg? If so, you need to vote in this election and get yourself educated on the issues facing the district.
In addition to the school board races, APS has quietly placed (a $200 million general obligation bond and) a property tax question on ballots. The question on the ballot asks for a tax levy of $3.838 per $1,000 of net taxable value on residential property and $4.344 on non-residential. The question(s are) with billions of stimulus money flowing into New Mexico schools, students fleeing APS in droves and the Legislature sitting on “more money than they know what to do with,” per the Senate Finance Committee chairman, why is APS asking for (more)?
Here in Albuquerque and across New Mexico, education reform is on the ballot. Voters need to get educated about the candidates and issues that will, at long last, pull our state out of last place. Get out to vote and take a friend or relative with you.
Opportunity for All Kids New Mexico, www.oaknm.org, is an organization dedicated to reforming New Mexico’s education system.
Before getting into some of the specific problems with the proposed standards, PED is NOW accepting public comments and will do so until November 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. (MDT). There will be a public hearing Friday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (MDT) at Mabry Hall in Santa Fe.
Mail: Policy Division, Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501
Here is a rundown of SOME of the problems with the proposed standards:
In Ethics, Cultural and Identity Studies there is a requirement that students assess how social policies and economic forces “offer privilege or systemic inequity in accessing social, political, and economic opportunity.” This is classic CRT theology. 18.104.22.168(A)(1)(d)
Throughout the entire social studies curriculum for K-8 grades, there is a continue focus on the differences, rather than the similarities, among various groups of people. This, too, is classic CRT as the purpose is to divide people among various minority groups, which can quickly lead to victimhood.
There are also numerous example where a teacher can impose the notion of “justice and fairness,” unequal power relations, “past and current injustices”, although those terms are open to many interpretations. These phrases are also classic CRT as it perpetrates the sense of inequity in our society along racial lines. 22.214.171.124(E)(2) and 126.96.36.199(E)(7) and 188.8.131.52(E)(12)
Within High School U.S. History, a requirement that students “evaluate what an efficient, equitable, and just economic system would look like in the U.S.” This is again classic CRT as it imposes the belief on students that our current capitalistic system must be eliminated in order to eliminate racism. 184.108.40.206(A)(1)(i)
Within High School U.S. History, students are required to create an action plan for a more just and equitable America for diverse groups of people including Native Americans and African Americans. This is another CRT theology component in that America is automatically unjust and inequitable to various minority groups. 220.127.116.11(A)(3)(kk)
Within High School U.S. History, students are required to examine the past, present, and future of gun violence in the U.S. Of course, there are no standards provided to discuss the constitutional rights of gun owners, or that individuals, not an inanimate object, are responsible for gun violence in America or how gangs, drug cartels, etc. have resulted in greater gun violence in our society. No positives regarding gun usage by women or minority groups are put forth. 18.104.22.168(A)(1)(gg)
In the 5th Grade, students are required to describe how inequity in the U.S. laid the foundation for conflict that continues today. Another classic example of CRT as it stresses racial disparity in terms of inequality. 22.214.171.124(A)(3)(b)
Within High school U.S. History, students must examine the short-and long-term effects of CIA involvement in Latin America. How about pairing this with a discussion of Communism and the negative impact it has had in Cuba and other Latin American nations. 126.96.36.199(A)(1)(x)
In the 7thGrade, students must compare the patterns of exploration, destruction and occupation of the Americas by the Spaniards. 188.8.131.52(D)(3)(g)
Within High School U.S. History, students must explore the movement against police brutality. 184.108.40.206(A)(3)(mm)
RGF will be formulating its own comments in a subsequent post, but you are encouraged to submit your own and highlight this.
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 www.oaknm.org 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
Over a very busy weekend the head of the Rio Grande Foundation joined New Mexicans (in Albuquerque) protesting against masking kids in school this fall. At its peak there were approximately 150 people in attendance. Especially notable were the loud horn honks from the numerous cement truck drivers as they passed. Blue collar workers certainly seem to oppose masking kids in school.
RGF’s Paul Gessing briefly spoke to the reporter for the story at the end below:
Private success vs. Public sector failure: While we have certainly criticized Bill Richardson’s decision to build a $200+ million Spaceport for Richard Branson, in the bigger picture both Bransons’ and Bezos’ successes are achievements for the private space industry. New Mexico’s schools are overwhelmingly government-run and funded. It would be nice if those who are rightly frustrated by the failures of this system would join us in focusing their efforts on bringing private sector competition and competence to bear on the difficult challenge of improving literacy in NM.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population data showing how the population of America and its 50 states had shifted between 2010 and 2020. As has been the case for decades, Midwestern “Rust Belt” states overall lost representation, while fast-growing states in the Southwest gained seats (Texas added two and Colorado one). For the first time ever, California actually lost a congressional seat.
Yet overlooked by the national media in all of this was what can only be described as the impending creation of a population “donut hole” in the otherwise fast-growing Southwest — that is, my home state of New Mexico.
While Utah and Arizona didn’t add congressional seats as New Mexico’s other neighbors Colorado and Texas did, both states saw double-digit population growth for the decade. New Mexico’s population, on the other hand, grew at just 2.8 percent over that period. That puts the state on par with Vermont and just ahead of Maine, at 2.6 percent.
When neighboring Utah grows at 18.4 percent and Texas grows by 15.9 percent — and your own state’s population barely increases — there must be a problem. Hint: It’s not the weather. A variety of factors have been driving Americans to move from the Northeast to the Southwest, including the search of better weather. But New Mexico’s is unparalleled. It is sunnier than Florida and doesn’t have the oppressive 120-degree summer heat of Phoenix. And it really is a “dry” heat without the muggy humidity of Texas.
As if New Mexico’s minuscule 2.8 percent population growth was not pathetic enough, the details are even more troubling. Over the decade, New Mexico, a state with just over 2 million people, gained 103,506 people over the age of 65. Clearly, the state’s weather, inexpensive housing, and unique cultural offerings are attractive to a certain segment of retirees.
Nancy Pelosi’s majority in the House of Representatives continues to shrink. The recent swearing-in of Republican Julia Letlow of Louisiana has taken the House Democrats’ majority down to 218–212. This means that Pelosi has a mere two-vote governing majority with which to push the Biden administration’s big-government agenda.
The GOP will soon have another chance to reduce Pelosi’s margin for error when voters in New Mexico’s first congressional district (which includes Albuquerque and its environs) go to the polls to elect a replacement for Biden’s newly minted secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, a Democrat. Early voting begins today, while Election Day itself is June 1.
The district is classified by many in the national media as a “blue” district that should safely remain in Democratic hands, and as recently as November 2020, Haaland defeated Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes by an overwhelming 58–42 percent margin. The seat was previously held by New Mexico’s current Democratic governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and before that, now–senator Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat.
But Republicans have faced challenges in candidate recruitment in recent years in this congressional district. The last time they had a truly top-notch challenger was in 2010, when Jon Barela lost just 52–48 to Martin Heinrich, and in 2009 Heather Wilson, a Republican, held the seat, having done so for a decade. With this race being the sole topic of a special election and so much at stake in Washington, this could be a much more interesting contest than outsiders expect.
The candidates to replace Haaland could not be more different. While there is a serious independent contender and the Libertarians technically have major-party status, the Republican and Democrat contenders are state legislators with long histories of voting on important policy issues. Republican senator Mark Moores has been in the New Mexico Senate since 2013. In addition to his prior experience as a staffer for various Republican officeholders Moores played offensive line for the University of New Mexico Lobos.
Melanie Stansbury, on the other hand, was unknown in the state until she ran for the New Mexico house in 2018. Her prior political experience was in the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget.
The legislative track records of these two candidates are also drastically different. For starters, Stansbury strongly believes that New Mexicans should have their tax burdens increased rather dramatically.
In 2019, she voted for HB 6, which subsequently became law. Among other provisions, the bill increased taxes on auto sales, imposed taxes on Internet purchases, and increased New Mexico’s personal income tax. Ironically, this tax hike took New Mexico’s top personal income-tax rate from 4.9 percent (set by former Democratic governor Bill Richardson and the Democrat-controlled legislature) and brought it up to 5.9 percent. Moores voted against the tax hike, but it was subsequently signed into law by Governor Lujan Grisham, despite the state having a surplus in excess of $1 billion at the time.
In their most recent legislative session, the New Mexico legislature was back to raising taxes, and Stansbury was more than happy to go along. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a state unemployment rate that remains among the worst in the nation, the combined forces of New Mexico’s resurgent oil and gas industry and the massive economic stimuli out of Washington again put the New Mexico budget comfortably in surplus territory.
Nonetheless, Stansbury and other Democrats in New Mexico’s legislature voted for and passed numerous tax hikes. HB 122, which failed after House approval, was subsequently folded into SB 317 and ultimately signed into law. Stansbury voted for the bills both times. The bills increase a tax imposed by the state on health-insurance premiums from 1 percent to 3.75 percent — a tax increase of 275 percent. Moores voted against the tax hike.
As if that were not enough to illustrate the stark difference between these candidates, Stansbury joined her Democratic colleagues in the New Mexico House to push even more egregious tax legislation in the form of HB 291. This bill which passed the House with Stansbury’s support would have again increased New Mexico’s personal income tax, this time to 6.5 percent, but (more problematically) would have revised the state’s personal income-tax structure to make the higher tax rates kick in at much lower income levels than under current law.
On top of this, the proposal Stansbury endorsed would have allowed property-tax assessments to increase by up to 10 percent annually if the property was not occupied by the owner. The current cap in New Mexico limits annual increases to the already-substantial rate of 3 percent per year. The measure was intended to target Texans with second homes in New Mexico, but it would have applied to apartment and condo dwellers as well.
Fortunately for New Mexicans, cooler heads prevailed in the (also Democrat-controlled) Senate Finance Committee, which eliminated the tax hikes from HB 291 before the bill passed into law.
These are just the tax hikes endorsed by Stansbury in her three short years in the New Mexico legislature. During her time in office, she has voted to ban local governments from enacting “Right to Work” laws on the local level, and she voted for New Mexico to abandon the Electoral College, saying instead that it should dedicate its five electoral votes to whatever candidate won the popular vote. The latter would have dramatically diminished what influence small-population New Mexico has in presidential races for no benefit aside from her ideology.
Stansbury is a true big-government radical. Her advocacy of big government in the New Mexico legislature places her to the left of Nancy Pelosi. At a time when every race matters in a closely divided U.S. House, conservatives cannot ignore this special election in a “blue” but winnable district.