On Wednesday he and New Mexico Education Secretary Veronica C. Garcia introduced the next generation of Making Schools Work education reform initiatives called, Graduate New Mexico! It’s Everybody’s Business.
The governor says he recognizes the state has a huge problem with dropout rates, but he's rolling out a series of new initiatives that could improve those numbers.
The program announced at Rio Grande High School, and outlined in detail in the ABQ Journal and the New Mexico Independent, combined with other new education reforms, are designed to bring some 10,000 dropouts back to school to earn their diplomas, address the achievement gap, and improve graduation rates in New Mexico.
But republicans say they don't want to wait. They want to know why the governor has waited until the last year and half of his administration to deal with the problem.
Richardson told Associated Press Reporter Heather Clark that he believes criticism of his administration's education record is politically motivated.
Despite the state's 54% dropout rate and being ranked 47th in the national education standings, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson says he won't give back his Education Governor of the Year award from the NEA he received in July. (See our NEA Award report here).
Richardson says his education record is strong and he proudly accepts the award.
Instead, Richardson said he'll focus his priorities on new education reforms designed to bring 10,000 students back to the classroom, or to a new online learning center, to earn their high school diplomas by 2011.
In San Diego last month, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who presented the award to Governor Richardson, commented on why Richardson was only the second governor to receive the group's honor:
Governor Richardson speaks up on issues that affect children, and he follows up the talk with action. Realizing the impact early childhood education has on long-term success, he extended kindergarten programs to full-day classes. Despite criticism, he advocated for and passed a law to provide free preK for 4-year-olds.In addition to his early childhood education efforts, the award recognized Governor Richardson for fighting to put physical education back into elementary schools and taking junk foods out, increasing teacher pay and restoring collective bargaining rights for educators.
During his acceptance speech in San Diego, Richardson told the NEA Union assembly that education has been his administration's top priority since he was first elected in 2002.
From increasing teacher pay, to ensure that we recruit and retain the best and brightest, to better preparing our kids by implementing a statewide preK program, I’m proud of the reforms we’ve made.Richardson told the crowd (listen here) that he believes his education reforms will be a part of his eight-year gubernatorial legacy.
The governor, who only has 18 months left in his administration, got a warm reception when he said (listen here) that it's time to completely change the "No Child Left Behind," program. Richardson also said state's can't afford to stop spending money on educational reforms (listen here), because education, he believes, is the key to the nation's economic future (listen here).
Announcing the Graduate New Mexico! It’s Everybody’s Business initiative, Richardson told students, teachers, school board members and business leaders that:
To sustain New Mexico’s growing economy and workforce, all New Mexican’s must at the very least graduate from high school. We must accept that in the 21st century, to secure a job that will support a family and provide a decent quality of life, a high school diploma is a must.Education Secretary Garcia said incremental gains are good, but not good enough:
We must take bold steps in our reform effort.The total investment in new education reform is $8.9 million dollars from federal stimulus money.