Monday, June 27, 2016

State Early Childhood Education Rankings Remain In Cellar; What's The Way Forward? A Bold Investment Or "Love It Or Leave It? 

The existential crisis that has enveloped our beloved New Mexico deepens by the day. (Really, what does it mean to be a New Mexican these days?) For many it means hoping to become a former New Mexican.

Socio-economic indicators continue to deteriorate, signaling an ongoing decline in the standard of living and quality of life for a wide swath of the population, even as those who preside at or near the top of the economic ladder escape the pain.

The state's death spiral is once again captured by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count assessment which for the third year running ranked us 49th in the nation in child well-being. Once again it's "thank God for Mississippi" which came in 50th. But no thanking Mississippi for our rank in childhood education. In that, we ranked dead last in the nation as other states continue to out invest us.

in 2010, child well-being in New Mexico ranked 46th. In 2013 we fell to 50th and have now stayed at 49th for the past three years. The 2016 ranking is based on data from 2014. (Minnesota ranked #1).

The responses to this may as well be pre-recorded. Most everyone is wedded to their viewpoint and not open to persuasion. Conservatives and the media they dominate continue to argue that we are spending more than ever on early childhood but it's going down a rat hole because what we are doing is ineffective. Those on the other side dismiss that view, noting that if we were not spending what we have been, we would be even worse off. They add that the level of spending will have to skyrocket to begin a reversal.

It's that old saying, "you get what you pay for" and New Mexico is not paying nearly enough for the decades of neglect that is now culminating in an historic depopulation and long-running economic stagnation.

The proposal to tap a small portion ($145 million a year) of the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education (ages zero to 5) to make a concerted effort to offer a new way of life for the next generation of New Mexicans is our last best hope.


Because the population here and businesses eyeing our workforce and thinking of locating here, don't see any serious effort to reverse the social conditions crisis. Our fair state has earned a reputation as a lousy place to live and work (but not a bad place to retire).

The blatant intellectual dishonesty (and absurdity) from the administration and segments of the media is breathtaking in the face of the disintegration the state is undergoing.

They repeatedly offer holding back third graders who have not achieved reading standards as the solution to the childhood education disaster, a concept already discredited in other states and that amounts to putting a band-aid on a cancer.

Both Senators Udall and Heinrich have repeatedly spoken out for using the Permanent Fund to end the cycle of impoverishment. However, they have no adherents at the Deming School of Economics run by conservative Democratic State Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who has regularly thwarted consideration of the rescue plan.

The truth is most of the economic pain and social chaos is being endured by the lower classes and minority groups in particular. The media, the business community and the gainfully employed have yet to be moved to action. And, sadly, they never may be. Rather than deal directly with the dilemma, in many quarters the state's new mantra is a recital of an old one: "Love it or leave it."

The psychological effect of passage of that proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters for very early childhood monies from the Permanent Fund would be as important as its practical impact. It would signal hope for a state that is slowly losing it, and without hope there isn't much to stick around for.


One of the Senior Alligators offers this take on the state's forlorn position in the Kasey rankings:

Both Rs and Ds are to blame for not having a backbone to do the right things. It is not that they don't know right from wrong it is that it is easier to do nothing and not rocking the boat because ultimately they get reelected when the do nothing. We have an invisible leadership that allows the media to tell lies.


A helpful news column points out that in the eventful year of 1966 New Mexico built "The Pit," constructed famous Popejoy Hall on the UNM Campus and opened the Sandia Peak Tramway. A pretty good year. What the column does not state is why we are not doing anything close to that in our era. The generation of 50 years ago was progressing while this one is regressing. We can't even muster the political will to tear down decrepit 60 year old Tingley Coliseum and build a new 21st century showcase as Tingley was to the 20th century. Talk about living on past glories.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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