CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth/New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson speaks about the upcoming election and education reform to a group of listeners Wednesday at Yucca Junior High in Clovis.
By Jack King
Two proposed state constitutional amendments would eliminate bureaucracy and fund badly needed school reforms, Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday.
Richardson spoke in the library of Yucca Junior High School when he stopped here on a swing through the state aimed at drumming up support for two amendment proposals in the Sept. 23 special election.
“The (education) system is not good, and we need to make it better,” he told his audience.
Constitutional Amendment 1 would create a cabinet-level position of Secretary of Education, to head a reorganized public education department.
Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow money for education purposes distributed from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund to be increased from the current 4.7 percent of an average value of the fund to 5.8 percent for fiscal years 2005 to 2012, 5.5 percent for fiscal years 2013 to 2016, then to a permanent 5 percent. The average value is figured as the average annual year-end market values of the fund for the preceding five calendar years, according to a discussion of the amendment on the Web site of the state Republican Party.
Richardson said the current state Board of Education is unwieldy and engages in “turf battles” with the Department of Education instead of concentrating on education issues.
“Three times they’ve come to my office, and each time the question was ‘Should we fire the superintendent?’ Not a word about education issues,” he said.
Under Amendment 1, Richardson said, he would eliminate the five appointed members of the 15-member board and keep the 10 elected members as advisors. Real decisions would be made by a Secretary of Education appointed by the governor, he said.
“We need a secretary who will be a cabinet member, but who will be accountable through his budget to the Legislature,” he said.
He said, if the amendment passes, the day afterward he would organize a search committee. Criteria for a secretary would be: someone from the education community; a New Mexican; someone with experience and stature; able to motivate and manage; and someone with statewide respect.
He said money from Amendment 2 is necessary to pay for teacher raises, a three-tier licensing system and other reforms already approved by the state Legislature under House Bill 212, passed in 2003. The Land Grant Permanent Fund would provide a steady, reliable flow of funds that would help him shift spending from the bureaucracy to the classroom.
Increasing the percentage taken from the permanent fund will not endanger it because there is enough money in the fund to cover the increase and still allow it to grow, he insisted.
“Everyone agrees the fund is expected to grow to $14 million by 2020,” he said.
Passing the two amendments is a bi-partisan effort, Richardson added.
“Sen. (Pete) Domenici and I are co-chairs of this effort, and (former Republican governor) Garrey Carruthers is working with us,” he said.
Richardson recognized State Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, whom he thanked for the “bi-partisan way he has worked with me on water and education.” He also recognized Doc Stewart — whom he called “Mr. Clovis” — and former Clovis Community College president Jay Gurley.