Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Premature On Pre-K? Politicos Begin to Play Blame Game As Kid's Program Teeters, Plus: Who's The Greatest: Pete Or Chavez? 

Secretary Garcia
The Legislative mess that pre-kindergarten has become may be due to a simple lack of preparation by the top guns in Big Bill's administration, claim some of the insiders watching this one with care. "They did a poll. It showed that pre-k was popular with the public, but they did not back it up with convincing evidence or numbers so they are in trouble," said one of them.

Light Guv Diane Denish was to be the heroine on pre-k and was given the go-ahead by the Guv and told to run with it. But there was little, if any, public push for the concept before the Legislative session. Now, in desperate op-ed pieces, disparate groups are trying to pull it out. However, even Dem lawmakers, shaken by the eventual $30 million annual cost of the program, may be inclined to give only a pilot plan approval. Will a Big Bill special session threat make them change their minds? Maybe not.

All this has new Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia under the hot spotlight of La Politica. She started out saying the program would cost $50 mil a year, but in short order shaved that back to $30 million. How's that for credibility? "Garcia is under enormous pressure. She has to meet goals set by the governor and at the same time manage cutbacks in other areas," said one source who has worked on the issue.

Republicans warned early that they would be targeting pre-k and, by association, Denish. A sarcastic email from a reader sums up the PR problem Diane and the Administration have on this one: "Was that number of $9,000,000 for 3,000 kids for one year? Tuition at NMSU is right at $3,000 per semester! Send them there. Since they are only half the size of the other students they should only be charged half as much, with the state paying the bill!"

Denish, Secretary Garcia and Big Bill's education staff may have some navel gazing to do on this one.

Sen. Chavez
A few weeks ago (see Feb.8)I wrote that the late NM U.S. Seantor Dennis Chavez as the "greatest" senator to ever serve out Enchanted Land. That had some readers asking how I could exclude the GOP's Pete Domenici. How did I come to this conclusion, they queried? First, I weighed each senators overall impact on how New Mexicans live today. Chavez's election changed New Mexican political history by opening the doors of opportunity to Hispanics. Remember, the 1930's was an age of discrimination, including against Chavez by his fellow senators when he took office. His civil rights advocacy and how it changed our politics clearly make him the most influential and the "greatest" New Mexican U.S. Senator. But what about the billions Pete has brought to NM? Indeed he has. But again there would not be a Kirtland Air Force Base and probably not a Sandia Labs without Democrat Chavez who was on the job when the base was created and the one that now Pete works so hard to keep going!

Not that Chavez was a saint. His elections raised eyebrows over the vote counting and he was accused of padding his senate payroll. But his good far outweighed his bad. Perhaps someday Saint Pete may be viewed as the greatest senator to serve New Mexico but for now that honor, in this corner, goes to Dennis Chavez, who was born into a New Mexico territory that offered little opportunity. But he beat the odds and in so doing inspired the generations to follow. That's pretty great, no?

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