Once again, New Mexico’s public education old guard is prioritizing systems over students—and self-interest over families.
With New Mexico’s 54th legislative session only four days in, the education establishment has staked early claim on a predictably regressive policy agenda. First up is Senate Bill 1, sponsored by senators Mimi Stewart, Gay Kernan, and Bill Soules; a true bipartisan fiasco.
Misleadingly named “Public Education Changes”, SB1 with 48 pages, more than 9000 words, and 28 sections, is a whopper intended to fundamentally distort public education in New Mexico. Unfortunately for families and educators across the state, the vision the authors have in mind is 40 years in the past, when districts ran impenetrable monopolies. Back to the 70s, when they were last in a classroom.
Back to when families had little information about the performance of their students or schools. Back to when districts were free to abdicate training and support for teachers. Back to when we “knew” there were significant differences in learning outcomes for students but turned a blind eye. Back to when schools shrugged their shoulders when students can’t read. And back to a time when parents had one public school option, based on their zip code.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this ill-conceived omnibus bill is the underhanded attack on public charter schools and the educators, families, and students in their walls. Cynically couched in the ruling of Yazzie v. Martinez, SB1 is a shameless attempt to suffocate charter schools in New Mexico. Imagine the mental gymnastics needed to crow about Yazzie while simultaneously trying to undermine many of the schools best serving Native and Hispanic students Yazzie is intended to champion.
To find the action, scroll down to page 20, section 9.d. For folks who talk, talk, talk nonstop about “local control”, a bill mandating that “the maximum [students] in each charter school shall be determined by the [NMPED]” strikes me as top-down and the opposite of community focused. How about a maximum number of students in any given school or district who aren’t reading or doing math on grade level?
This tired game of blaming poor, hardworking families—you know, those who only know how to “street fight”—and then trying to extinguish any school or district that disproves that mythos, must come to an end.
Even with tens of thousands of New Mexico families on waiting lists, this bill would cap the number of students who may select charter schools to 27,000 (we currently have just over 26k). SB1 also creates two classes of students: those who go to district schools and get more funding, and students choosing public charter schools who get less. And we thought “separate but equal” was long gone. Nope, just another part of efforts to revert NM public ed based on revisionist history.
Make no mistake, SB1 is a political play meant to severely hamstring some of New Mexico’s best schools. This is what APS, ATF, NEA-NM, and SFPS have been banking on (and bankrolling) for years.
It’s a thuggish mentality: Can’t beat ‘em, then squash ‘em. SB1 is exactly the kind of bill many of us predicted from a transition team packed with bureaucratic insiders most interested in protecting their $100k+ salaries and Paleo-Education perspectives.
Kneecapping some of our state’s best public schools as political quid pro quo, is not how we help all schools better educate students most in need of responsive education environments. Our children and families in New Mexico deserve better. Better schools; better superintendents; better school boards; and better leadership in the legislature.