As one of the newer Ngage New Mexico Board members, I want to find a unique way to help Ngage NM and the prenatal-to-career education initiative, SUCCESS Partnership, achieve its goals in Doña Ana County. Since 2017, I have been assisting Representative Joanne Ferrary with her legislative priorities. One of which, is revamping our educational system, top to bottom.
The 2019 Legislature convened last week and our new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, wasted no time laying out her agenda — which includes several public education initiatives — in her state of the state address.
A host of bills have already been introduced — in addition to the governor’s proposed budget, which, passed together, would do nothing short of re-making New Mexico’s educational system by taking a “moonshot” for education, as the governor referred to in her first session.
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For the past two years, I have witnessed legislators from both chambers and both parties grapple with the challenge of resetting the entire statewide educational system, with many vested interests already in the existing system. I was lucky enough to monitor the interim Education Study and Health committees. These committee was focused on ways to address a host of educational issues.
There are local and national evidence-based programs that can help support our governor and legislators in this effort. I believe there is a general consensus on what needs to be done, despite differences on how to get there. New Mexicans only need the will to make the substantial investment in both time and money necessary to achieve this goal.
New Mexicans have heard there is a large budget surplus this year. There is nothing to suggest that these surplus dollars will be available next year or in the coming years. That is why one of the first challenges is to ensure that if we decide to invest in substantial changes to the current system, this effort can be sustained over time.
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The current surplus is largely the result of oil and gas severance taxes. Those sources are non-renewable and subject to market forces beyond our control. Solar and wind energy is important and part of the solution, but probably insufficient to replace oil and gas revenues.
The legislature must begin to invest the financial resources we have now, to allow a transition to a more diversified tax base. If we can develop better educated citizens and workforce, as well as an economy that can both entice and develop new businesses in New Mexico, and provide our children with the skills necessary to find good jobs and establish careers here, we will have a more vibrant economy which, by itself, will broaden the tax base.
While this legislation makes its way through the various committees, we will have to become familiar with new terms such as adverse childhood experiences, early learning, best practices, and social, emotional and critical thinking skills. These and other concepts will challenge us to think in new ways about how we will deliver education to our children.
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The evidence is clear that unless we address education as a cradle-to-career process and realize that we need to consider the family environment from which each child comes, we will not reach the goal of maximizing their opportunity to succeed. By the time children reach first or second grade, it may be too late to undo the impact of ACES.
I urge everyone to educate themselves regarding the education legislation and the evidence supporting it. I urge everyone to contact their legislator and support their effort to create an educational system that will serve us for generations to come. It is my hope that the SUCCESS Partnership will play a key role in the transition to the educational system New Mexicans deserve.