The election to choose New Mexico’s next governor is still months away, but it’s safe to say that no matter who wins the race, education in the state is likely in for some major changes.
“New Mexico has suffered for the last eight years under leadership that has failed our schools,” Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
The Democratic front-runner in the 2018 governor’s race released an “11-point plan” she said will help change the state’s current education system.
“We’re going to provide universal pre-k to 3 and 4-year-olds across our state, we’re going to raise teachers salaries and we are going to eliminate the PARCC test,” she said.
The standardized test known as PARCC has been controversial for years. Lujan-Grisham says the unfair test has to go.
“Despite this, the current administration has pushed ahead with its testing-first approach, weakening the trust that educators, students, and communities have in our system,” she stated.
Lujan-Grisham is currently in Washington, so through email, a spokesperson for her camp said, “as Governor, Michelle will work with stakeholders across New Mexico to adopt alternative assessments and next-generation STEM standards that include performance-based measures and portfolio assessments that have been proven to help students succeed.”
Her Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Pearce, agreed.
“It looks like an endless process and yes we want to be data driven so I don’t mind some testing but the PARCC test seems to be especially ineffective,” he said. “My initial reaction is we should find a better way to measure our students.”
Pearce also said they have to address the issue of electronic testing.
“The testing itself, is electronic, yet they don’t get the results until it’s too late to do anything and that student has already moved on,” he said. “If we’re going to do electronic testing those results should be available the next day.”
Pearce said he would also like to focus on establishing an apprenticeship program for students not interested in going to college.
In a release, Lujan-Grisham said it’s time to tap into the more than $17 billion permanent fund to make pre-k available to all New Mexico families.
She said she would like to “increase in the distribution from the permanent school fund to help fill funding gaps for pre-k and k-12.”
However, she didn’t say by how much.
Each year, the fund already gives more than a half-billion dollars to New Mexico’s public schools.
“I’m very nervous about beginning to dip into that permanent fund until you have solutions,” Pearce said. “It’s far more complex than just throwing more money at the situation.”
Pearce said one solution is addressing behavioral issues that interrupt class.
“We almost have no mental health counseling in our schools and that’s something that we need to address,” Pearce said. “Because again we’re dealing with a much more different population than America has ever seen before.”
However, he said he’ll turn to the Public Education Department first to find money to pay for some of his proposals.
“If you look at PED, we’ve got a lot of bureaucracy and the first thing I would do would be to assess whether that bureaucracy is needed,” he said.