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Who Needs Public Education Anyways?

By: Rae Arnett

What does less funding for the public universities in New Mexico mean? Budget cuts and higher tuition costs are two things that immediately come to mind. But no matter what the actual cost might be, it will be you, the students, paying for it.

In a standoff with the New Mexico Legislature earlier this month, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed all of the funding for higher education. This standoff started over proposed raised taxes in the state budget. I do not want to pay more taxes, but we currently live in a state that is in a budgetary crisis and additional taxes are necessary.

My question –  why veto and put public universities at risk? It’s one question I cannot answer for certain, but I believe it is a political power play. Martinez knows that taking a harsh stand will have a greater probability of bring the state legislature to the table, on her terms.

In order to get the budget approved, and funding back for the public universities, there will have to be a special session called. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the special session will cost approximately $50,000 per day, which is not exactly desirable considering the current financial predicament our state is in.

Public education in New Mexico is generally ranked near the bottom of the annual Quality Education Reports, and this year was no different. New Mexico tied for 49th with Mississippi and Nevada came in at 50th. This does not bode well for public education in New Mexico, which has also been under the knife of budget cuts.

I do not know about you, but I want to be proud of education in New Mexico, which means we need to start appropriately funding our schools. All of them. Education starts early in our lives, and we continue through school for a significant amount of time. I have been “in school” for nearly 19 years, but I also know that I have been extremely fortunate in every step of my education.

When I look to the future and think about where I would want to build a career, life, and family; I think about education standards, cost of living, job security and safety. Needless to say, New Mexico ranks on my list for its proximity to my family but not for much else.

To further complicate matters, there is also a current job freeze on most state jobs, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But why does that matter? As graduation approaches, there is a significant appeal to state jobs as well as federal jobs.

Our state has essentially defunded public education, higher education, and created less job opportunities for the state. In a state where retention of college graduates is already an issue, it seems it would be wise not to dramatically raise tuition and to offer incentives, like job opportunities, for those recent graduates to stay.

Our state is in trouble. Our university is in trouble. And we are in trouble.

Call and let Susana Martinez know that you want public universities and public schools funded. The higher we build up our youth with education, the better off our entire state will be.

Susana Martinez’s office can be reached at 505-476-2200. Call her office and let her know what you think. She might be in her “lame duck” years as our Governor, but she still works for us; her constituents.

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