I strongly object to the tenor and claims of your newspaper’s recent commentary, “Beware more control of our schools.”
To set the record straight: These Constitutional amendments are about taking decisive action to fix our failing schools. We are 46th in the country in how we pay our teachers. We are 45th in the country per capita spending on our students. Not only are those statistics frightening for parents and students, it virtually eliminates hopes of attracting jobs to our state.
Our schools must be accountable to the governor and to the Legislature. They are not now.
This is not a political fight and should not be pictured as such. Many Republicans are supporting these amendments, including U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, ex-governor Garrey Carruthers and many legislators.
In addition, these amendments are also supported by the Association of Commerce and Industry, the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association and the AARP.
The first amendment will create an accountable Secretary of Education and remove the existing five political appointees on the current State Board. The second will increase the distribution from our state’s $6.8 billion Permanent Fund.
Your paper states this additional distribution will endanger the fund. That is simply false. The Wall Street Journal, on Aug. 4, editorialized that “foundations are perfectly capable of spending more than 5 percent … foundations could have spent 6.5 percent of their assets annually from 1950 to 1988 and still have grown their endowments by 24 percent.” In comparison, this proposal would raise our annual distribution to 5 percent, with an additional distribution of up to just 5.8 percent over the next 12 years, investing $600 million into our children’s classrooms.
Our Permanent School Fund is conservatively projected to have $15 billion in 2021 with the passage of this amendment. It is also worth noting that through the 1980s, our state averaged an annual distribution of about 8.3 percent — this proposal is far from unreasonable.
Let me say it again — New Mexico needs a Secretary of Education who is accountable to the governor and the Legislature.
A Secretary of Education, who, by law, will be a “qualified, experienced educator,” will finally bring transparency and accountability to our public schools.
It is time to get rid of the political rhetoric and get to the facts. These amendments are good for New Mexico. I hope you will join me in voting yes on amendments 1 and 2.
Carroll Leavell is a Republican senator from Jal.