SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The debate over education in New Mexico is ramping up. Already, legislators debated ways to provide more educational options to kids. And Friday, February 10, legislators are scheduled to debate letting voters remove the Public Education Department (PED).

Replacing PED

Today, the Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to debate Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Sen. Steven P. Neville (R-San Juan). The resolution would let New Mexico’s voters decide if they want to remove the Public Education Department.

The resolution would amend the state’s constitution and replace the Public Education Department with an elected board of education. The idea might not be quite as radical as it may seem. Before fiscal year 2004, New Mexico did have an elected policymaking board for education, according to a Legislative Finance Committee analysis. The Public Education Department was created as a cabinet department in a ballot measure that appeared in 2003.

If the Public Education Department goes away, it’s not clear how education would be impacted. The resolution “could help to establish consistency in long-term education initiatives,” according to the Legislative Finance Committee analysis. Or, it may “lead to further years of unstable change to education administration after years that have already included significant changes and impacts within the education system in New Mexico.”

Lottery winnings

Legislators are also set to debate a bill to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Senate Bill 198, sponsored by Sen. Pat Woods (R-Curry, Quay & Union), would make it a petty misdemeanor to disclose a winner’s name without their consent.

The New Mexico Lottery Authority expressed a potential issue with the idea: “The communication of winners across the state serves to demonstrate to the public that lottery games are winnable and fairly awarded,” they said in an analysis. The implication is that increased anonymity, perhaps obviously, may come at the cost of transparency.

In case you missed it: Conservation funding, veterans’ documentary project

Many bills are making progress in the Roundhouse. Recently, legislators in the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to provide funding for conservation projects around the state. Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Steven P. Neville (R-San Juan) and Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), aims to ensure there’s long-term accounts to cover conservation costs. For more info on that bill, check out this KRQE News 13 story.

Legislators also recently voted to set aside funds for a project documenting veterans in the Southwest. Thursday, legislators in the House Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs committee unanimously voted in favor of Senate Bill 307. The bill would provide $100,000 for the “Veteran Heroes of the American Southwest – Forgotten Stories from Forgotten Places” project at the Bernalillo Museum.