By Michael J. Davis
Even before New Mexico was a state, our leaders envisioned a state land trust that would provide support for public education. Today’s school children benefit from their foresight. Through continued careful management, we can help to guarantee that future generations are well educated in mind, body and heart.
But we have an opportunity in September to do more. By voting in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to increase the annual payout from the Permanent School Fund, we can make an immediate difference in the lives of our school children.
Last year, our public schools received $256 million from the fund. This contributed to a nearly $2 billion investment in public education in New Mexico. Under the amendment, distributions would increase and could only be used to reform our schools. It is estimated that the constitutional amendment will result in roughly $700 million for public school reform over the next 12 years.
The amendment treats the School Permanent Fund prudently. The State Investment Office predicts that the fund should continue to grow, even with the increased allotment to education. And factors are included in the change that would protect the fund should growth be less than anticipated.
It is a tribute to the legislature and our governors that public education represents nearly 50 percent of the state’s overall budget. While this funding has guaranteed that schools open their doors each fall, there has been little remaining to support public school reform, including increased salaries for our teachers and other critical initiatives.
The New Mexico State Board of Education, in June, voted to support the Permanent School Fund Constitutional amendment. I urge you to join us in passing this instrument of change.
We must ensure a future and a legacy for the children in New Mexico. Through this initiative we can do both.
Michael J. Davis is New Mexico’s superintendent of public instruction.