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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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The Despicable Rally

By: Rae Arnett

More than 1000 New Mexico educators, parents, and students rallied at the Roundhouse Thursday afternoon according to Santa Fe Public Schools. With the hundreds of participants marching, chanting, and holding signs, it is hard not to believe the Governor and members of New Mexico’s state senate and congress did not hear the displeasure of their constituents.

The rally started off with marching around the roundhouse and chanting “save our schools” and “no more cuts”.

One woman in an upper level office at the roundhouse actually closed her window in an attempt to drown out the protests. Others in offices at the roundhouse stood at their windows and quietly cheered the protestors on.

Lana Wimberly, the 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher at Nino Otero community school showed up Thursday, March 16th, to support her school and all New Mexico educators as they protested outside of the New Mexico Roundhouse.

Lana Wimberly holds the sign her class helped create.

“As soon as the superintendent said she might be giving us some time off the kids and I started planning what we would do,” said Wimberly.

She was a little disappointed it was only a half day off for the schools because that meant some of her students would be able to make it.

“We were planning on where to meet up and how they could find me but with the half day off some of my students won’t be able to make it,” stated Wimberly.

Wimberly is from Texas originally and said Texas teachers have so much more than we do in New Mexico.

“The teachers here in New Mexico don’t even know what they are missing…almost $3000 more a month in pay, and more time off,” said Wimberly. Wimberly was especially disappointed that Governor Martinez would call educators despicable.

“Susanna Martinez just wants to take more away from the schools… she called us despicable,” said Wimberly in a shocked tone.

When asked, Wimberly stated she did not think the session would solve any of the issues at hand.

“I don’t think in this session will solve anything. It looks like the Republican senators are falling in line behind Susanna after she retaliated about them overriding her veto…whatever the next session is, maybe we can come up with something for our schools,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly said she has considered going back to Texas to teach, but she is not planning on going alone.

“I’ve thought about taking other teacher with me back to Texas so they could make more money. I have a five bedroom house there that I rent and I would like to do it just to make a statement,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly stated she has wrote a letter to Governor Martinez telling her about the plan. 

Joe Lister Jr., the Medically Fragile and Special Education teacher at Santa Fe High School attended the roundhouse rally because of his concern about how education cuts affect students long term.

“I don’t think law makers understand that education is the foundation for jobs, the street crime, the jails, and all the things that cost more money in the end,” said Lister.

Lister also stated he was concerned about the lac

k of awareness of the federal mandates for special education. “We can’t do it (meet the standards) without funding from the city, the state, and districts. With out that funding they will wreck us,” said Lister.

I don’t know if it’ll get solved but I think the people coming together to be heard is a great thing. 

Lister’s main concern for the upcoming school year is how special education will be affected.

“I am concerned the special education children won’t have the proper support needed to fulfill their education needs and how cuts will affect education all the way around,” said Lister.

Lara Becker, the 3rd grade teacher at Amy Biehl Community School, was also in attendance.

Becker said she attended because she was concerned about the budget cuts.

“The superintendent gave us a perfect opportunity to come out here and we are grateful for her,” said Becker. 

She stated that she hoped this rally would have a positive impact on how the budget was handled.

“Hopefully if the numbers show then it will make a statement. We can only be hopeful,” said Becker.

Becker’s main concern for next school year is the losing teachers.

“Losing teachers, losing quality teachers. It’s a loss for the kids,” said Becker.

Governor Martinez’s office did not return my call for comment.

Thursday’s March made it clear that New Mexico educators are fed up with the budget cuts to education in the state. New Mexico representatives would do well to listen to them, these protests come from people who voted them into office after all.