Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Richardson Says Take Politics Out of Education

Governor Bill Richardson wants New Mexican's to reserve judgment on his administration's education legacy until 2011. That's when he hopes to report a successful turnaround in the state's high dropout rate.

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.

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Anonymous said...

When I read this I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. So Peter, I tell you, the word is this: Education is THE ultimate political football. State lawmakers and the Gov. signed a budget that cuts education 10%, cuts employee pay 1.5% for two years, withdraws $84 million from what the state is paying into pension funds BECAUSE lawmakers think employees should shore up education with their pensions. As a result, we have school closures, impending furloughs and lay offs, vacancies aren't being filled, schools are holding abbreviated weeks because the budget doesn't even give school districts enough to open their doors (i.e. increased utility costs) - and local economies will suffer because there is less disposable income floating around. All of this was done in the name of the recession. Ha ha. Meanwhile, the Gov. and legislators kept tax breaks for the rich, refused to pass a law making big corporations pay their fair share in taxes to help fund schools (oh yeah, but our small businesses have to pay) - and they're giving away future tax revenues (that's right, money we haven't even collected yet) to private real estate developers in the name of "economic development" to the tune of hundreds of millions (called TIDDS) for which we're getting no good paying long term jobs for our kids to go to after they do graduate. Absent the Gov. and legislators reigning in corporate tax spending, enacting a zero tolerance policy for corporate tax dodgers, and using Obama's stimulus money as intended - to backfill education cuts and prevent future cuts as opposed to stockpiling 12% into cash reserves - everything else is a neatly packaged PR LIE. Oh yeah, now we're going to spend 8.9 million to "make" teachers "make" kids graduate. I mean, REALLY? This is the best they can do -- really?

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