Higher education is one of the most powerful engines of social mobility. Our economy and families thrive, and our future is brighter, when we make adequate, strategic investments in our public universities and colleges and ensure that they are accessible for all youth. But New Mexico has underfunded its public higher education institutions for years, and tuition has increased as a result. New Mexicans of color are among those who are hit the hardest by these budget choices.
First and foremost, we need to do what’s best for our children. Spending money and time on aggressive litigation against a court order that simply requires us to educate our children at the standard set forth in our own constitution is not what’s best for our children. Our K-12 education system needs fundamental change, and that will not occur unless we place a relentless focus on improving what’s happening in the classroom, not “winning” in the courtroom.
The past decade of austerity has been hard on New Mexico’s children. Still, we are optimistic about the future because we believe in the strength and resiliency of New Mexico’s families. We know we can build stronger communities and support more resilient families and children so that they can thrive. But we can only build a stronger New Mexico if our policymakers are willing to provide the revenue we need to make these investments.
This is a perilous moment for New Mexico’s children. There’s no getting around it. Yet the future is not predetermined for kids in New Mexico. This state’s leaders can be inspired by this moment to do better by its children. They can choose to collaborate inclusively and act boldly and swiftly. That’s what it will take — both to position the state well for the 2020 census and to give children a better chance to thrive.
Given the many challenges faced by our children, New Mexico should be making whatever investments are necessary to ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive and achieve success. Instead, over the last decade New Mexico has made some of the deepest cuts to K-12 education in the country. While some funding was restored during the 2018 legislative session, we are still far behind where we should be on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis.
Imagine having to turn down a raise in pay because it will actually make you less financially secure. Sounds crazy, but that's what many working parents have to do--and just when they're making headway in the quest to provide their family with economic stability. It's all due to the "cliff effect" and, in New Mexico, the cliff effect for child care assistance can throw families who get even a small raise right back into poverty.
Economists say it again and again: investments in higher education pay off. Unfortunately, Governor Susana Martinez’s decision to veto all funding for higher education—every penny—sent the wrong message to current and future college students worried about college costs as well as to businesses reticent of investing in a state that does not value education.
The last time voters decided to increase the distribution from the permanent fund was back in 2003. Even then, prognosticators warned that the move would “deplete” the fund. Back in 2003 the fund was worth about $7 billion. Over the next dozen years, the fund still managed to more than double. Here's why.
If you’re relocating a business that will need educated workers, would you set up shop in a state that’s made it more difficult to get a college degree? Or would you pick a state that makes educating their workforce a top priority?
At our recent Kids Count Conference, I asked the room of nearly 400 attendees to raise their hands if they had ever spent money on activities such as music lessons, team sports, preschool or a tutor for a child or grandchild. Then I asked if any of them would characterize that spending as “throwing money at the problem.”