Pillar Two: Education
New Mexico Democratic Party position:
“We believe that an educated populace is the cornerstone of sustainable democracy, and the single most important driver of economic prosperity. Affordable, high-quality pre-K through college education (and/or trade schools / professional training) is a basic right that is protected by New Mexico’s dedicated, high-quality educators. We believe that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the public education system prepares all to participate meaningfully in society.”
While we agree, it is also important to understand how our schools are funded. Often, school funding is an incredibly complex process which involves districts carrying insurmountable debt loads to finance basic infrastructure needs and essential services for our students. Many times, the per student multipliers used to establish funding for a particular district do not adequately reflect the actual needs of the district. There exists the idea that “throwing money at the problem won’t fix the schools.” This makes no sense whatsoever when the root of many of the issues facing our schools is exactly this. Money.
When we have teachers spending their own money to provide basic supplies for their classrooms, books and educational materials that are a decade out of date, historically low teacher salaries across the nation, and crumbling structures, this is 100% a money problem. The only thing that fixes money problems is money.
I propose that we dissect the school finance process in our state, simplify and remove barriers to adequate school funding, remove debt components, and fully fund every school across our state, equitably . We need to re-evaluate the multipliers used for each district and make sure that the formulas are equitably applied based on the needs of the district. Not only is the state required to do this as a result of the Yazzie decision, but it is simply the right thing to do. We need to extricate school infrastructure and capital investment funding from property taxes, mill levies, and bond votes . The only thing these funding sources accomplish is to bake inequality into our school infrastructure system. There should be no difference in the quality of educational resources based on where you live be it urban or rural, wealthy, or poor.
Unfunded mandates must stop immediately. If a change to how education is done in our state, or an additional requirement is added, that change MUST be fully funded. Putting additional requirements on an already over-stressed system with no tools is like asking someone to build a house with a toothpick. It is not possible.
I propose that we take a hard look at how our teachers are evaluated for effectiveness in the classroom. A “one-size-fits-all” approach leaves out too many variables from one district to the next, one classroom to the next, one teacher to the next. A school in Albuquerque is not going to have the same issues or challenges as one in Artesia. An elementary special education teacher is not the same as a high school chemistry teacher. We need to work with teachers and their unions to establish fair and responsive evaluation tools that serve more to identify trouble spots in an educational system vs. punishing teachers for low performance when there may be systemic issues preventing success that must be addressed.
I propose that we fully subsidize teacher training and advanced education / degrees for our educators. Fund our educator’s education. This will attract top-notch talent to our state, increasing global ratings for our education system.
I propose that should recreational cannabis be legalized in New Mexico, every dollar in tax revenue is mandated by law or constitutional amendment to go directly to education at every level, including post-secondary education. I propose that we also take another hard look at our extractive industries’ tax rates and impact fees. They want what we have underground and they need to be taxed appropriately.
I propose that we fully fund early childhood education and education-based child-care for working parents.
I propose that we expand and begin additional vocational training programs for students who choose to pursue trades over academics . We should begin the vocational track in high school and continue the programs through the first two years of community college. For example: A high school sophomore decides to participate in the plumbing program in high school. She graduates and decides to pursue a full journeyman certificate so that she can start a business. She may continue her education and a number of internship hours at a community college program. She may then be fully certified by her early 20’s and is ready to be an independent plumber once her internships are finished. We have an opportunity now to create outstanding vocational training programs in every area from healthcare to IT to energy technicians.
I propose that we make the first two years of community college or vocational training school free to the student. Should a student wish to pursue additional education, tuition and educational materials should be provided at a reasonable cost to the student affording everyone full access to education and job training no matter where they live.
I propose that charter and private schools receive no money from the state whatsoever. Once a school receives money from the state, it is no longer considered private and must conform to requirements as laid out by the legislature.
If a family chooses to homeschool, they may continue to do so, but children who are homeschooled must be able to pass the same exams as public school students at their grade level throughout their school career. These tests may be proctored by the school district where the homeschooled student resides. The cost of the proctored exams are to be paid for by the homeschooled student’s family. Every student in this state must be given the educational tools to compete and thrive in today’s economy.
Special education and services for autism spectrum students must be fully funded and include specially trained educators to be sure we are offering every student the most comprehensive learning environment available.
In addition to a school nurse, every school should have on staff a trained mental health professional as well as a trained social worker . Studies have shown that early mental health intervention is key to the prevention of violent incidents both in and out of school. We need to stop punishing children for circumstances in their lives that are out of their control. Rather, we can provide a robust support system for our kids in the community. At school. We need to fully embrace the simple fact that for many children, the only constant in their lives is school. Students should also have access to wholesome, nutritious meals twice a day while at school. Shaming of students who cannot pay is disgusting and irresponsible. Many students in rural / low-income areas face daily food insecurity. We can address this in part at school.
As our society becomes more dependent and enmeshed in technology, many of our rural and low-income students are left behind due to absent access to technology. I propose we create a statewide internet access network independent of private corporations. I propose we work with students and school districts to find a solution for children who do not have access to equipment be it through expanded school library hours with transportation home provided, altered school days to allow children without access in their homes to complete assignments, or providing equipment at low cost or free to every student. Access to technology should not be a barrier to educational success.
Full disclosure: I own weapons. Shotgun, rifle and soon I will purchase a .38 pistol and go through concealed carry licensure for carrying while campaigning on ranches to protect myself from rattlesnakes or other wildlife that may present a danger to me. I was taught to shoot at 8 years old by my late uncle who put a .22 rifle in my hand, pointed at a target, and told me to fire. I grew up surrounded by hunters and sportsmen. Never in a million years did any of us consider picking up one of these weapons, going to a crowded place and opening fire. We were taught to respect them as tools. We were taught safety.
School should be a safe haven for students and teachers. I have a fourteen year old who attends public school and he tells me about the active shooter drills they do regularly. I grew up at the tail end of The Cold War. I remember bomb drills. That was scary enough, however, the concept of a bomb lobbed by a foreign power is an abstract concept for a kid. Having to drill at school because at any moment one of your classmates may take a firearm, walk into school and blow as many people away as possible, is terrorism. Plain and simple. I am completely opposed to arming our teachers and staff as this will only exacerbate the problem with gun violence in our schools, not solve it. When you have a raging fire, you don’t add more fuel.
On the topic of school security, we do need to talk about common sense ways to better secure our schools in the short term while we work on the systemic issues which precipitate this situation.
I stand firmly in that we must do everything possible to keep firearms out of the hands of people who would use these weapons to harm and kill other people. I stand firmly in the idea that expanded background checks, including social media review, should be considered before ever allowing a person to purchase or own a weapon.
I stand firmly in the idea that anyone who has been convicted of a violent crime should never be allowed to own a weapon.
I stand firmly in the idea that anyone under a protective order for domestic violence should not be allowed to own a weapon.
It is my position that anyone wishing to own a weapon be required to carry insurance covering any injury or loss of life caused by that weapon while under the owner’s possession, or not. If the weapon is stolen and used in a murder, the weapon owner is still liable for the damage caused.
It is my position that the parents or guardians of any child who gets ahold of a weapon owned by the parent or guardian who then uses it to hurt or kill other people is liable due to negligence and will be charged with criminal liability along with the perpetrator.
It is my position that law enforcement officers be vetted more stringently than a citizen firearm owner as they are in positions of authority. We have given law enforcement a pass on bad behavior and weapons violations when we should be holding them to a much higher and stricter standard. Therefore, I do not support the Law Enforcement Officer exception to trading or selling weapons amongst themselves sans rigorous vetting.
There is no legitimate reason why military style weapons should be available to the general public. There is also no legitimate reason to allow stockpiling of weapons by any citizen.
I own weapons. I am willing to do whatever I can to keep them out of the hands of people intent on doing harm to others. I am fully willing to accept my personal responsibility as a firearm owner for any damage these tools may cause. This is what responsible firearm owners do.
None of this in any way impinges on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. A person’s right ends where another’s begins. Every person in this country has the right to live free of fear that their life may be prematurely ended by gun violence. Especially at school.