On this week’s interview show Paul Gessing interviews John Foreman of the New Mexico Association of non-public Schools. Paul and John discuss the important role filled by non-public schools in New Mexico. They focus significant attention on the recent ruling of New Mexico’s Supreme Court that allows non-public schools to use textbooks purchased with taxpayer dollars for non-religious purposes. They also address legislation filed in the 2019 session that would essentially overturn that decision.
Finally, Paul and John address the public policy climate in New Mexico as it compares to other states on issues like school choice other policies that could help New Mexico get out of 50th in education outcomes.
With massive education spending on the agenda at Albuquerque Public Schools and in the Legislature, it is worth taking a closer look at the reality of New Mexico’s education system and how it really performs relative to those in other states. Unfortunately too many education ratings (like 24/7 Wall Street’s) use more spending and simple outcomes as a positive variable in determining the “highest quality” K-12 systems.
Another issue is that these rankings usually don’t consider the real challenges of poverty and race in education challenges. New Mexico has those in spades and that is often the defense put forth by defenders of the current system from the unions to school districts.
The goal of an education system should be to take students where they are and help them as much as possible. Having really high-performing students and doing little with them or just spending lots of money don’t do much for student outcomes.
Fortunately, some researchers have taken a closer look at education measuring sticks and found a way to adjust the results to account for poverty and differing ethnic makeups. That’s the good news, unfortunately as the lists below show, New Mexico STILL performs poorly even after adjusting for those issues. As seen below, New Mexico ranks 41st on quality and, when spending is factored in, the State ranks slightly better at 33rd. That’s better than being 50th, but it is still not great. You can read the full analysis here and see the chart below:
On this week’s episode of Tipping Point New Mexico Paul and Wally discuss the prospects for a plastic bag and straw ban being put forth in the City of Albuquerque. Will such steps improve the environment? What has happened other places around New Mexico where they’ve been considered?
The Rio Grande Foundation has filed a “friend of the court” brief on an important workers’ rights case. Paul recaps the forum on the APS tax hike that he recently participated in.
Finally, Paul and Wally discuss Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s budget proposal and what it means for the State moving forward.
Ballots for the Albuquerque Public Schools special mail-in election are showing up in mailboxes. Voters have until Feb. 5 to mail their ballots back to ensure they are counted. Voters should beware that they will be asked to vote on a major property tax increase this election.
Currently, Albuquerque Public Schools receives approximately 1/4th of the property taxes paid locally. If voters pass this tax hike they will soon be paying 19 percent more in property tax to the district. Even if you take the APS rate hike as a percentage of your overall property tax bill, it is a robust 4.7 percent property tax hike.
As if that is not bad enough, APS is spending more than 1 million of our tax dollars just to hold this special mail-in election now rather than waiting for the municipal elections to be held later this year.
If adopted, this tax hike will impact everyone who lives in or owns a business in the APS district. This includes the North and South Valleys outside of the city as well as Corrales and the East Mountains. Even if you rent, your landlord will pay higher taxes and will pass along the cost – and maybe a bit more.
This tax hike will have the most detrimental impact on older residents on fixed incomes and those, especially the young, who are just starting out and on tight budgets. APS has sent out a flier arguing that jobs and economic activity will result from this tax hike, but the reality is that this tax hike is a massive wealth transfer from average taxpayers to the District and its contractors.
Not one penny of this tax hike will go to hire new or better teachers. This money will be spent on capital projects like buildings, not on educational personnel in the classroom. According to APS’ own budget document, the district has about 83,000 students in 141 school buildings. APS last had 83,000 students in 2003 and it educated those students in “just” 124 school buildings. Rather than raising taxes to build even more facilities, perhaps APS should combine and sell off under-used and unnecessary facilities?
It would also seem that APS has failed to prioritize student needs in its recent construction budgets. In addition to the massive “twin towers” facility in Uptown, the district recently spent $22 million to build a new “training” center on Louisiana and Comanche, which a vast majority of students will never step foot in.
Aside from selling off and consolidating unnecessary facilities and properties, there are numerous ways that APS could save money on construction costs.
New Mexico has a “prevailing wage” law in effect, which arbitrarily increases the cost of labor on construction projects like schools. Ohio has such a law in place as well but exempted school construction. A 2002 report from Ohio’s non-partisan Legislative Service Commission found an overall savings of 10.7 percent on school construction projects. Even if APS only saved some portion of that it would be worth doing, but APS never discusses prevailing wage when it talks about rising construction costs.
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APS could also save money by using modular construction. A 2016 KPMG report estimated 7 percent savings from such techniques. These are not the “trailer-style” temporary buildings often seen at our schools, but fully-functional, efficient buildings built faster and cheaper than traditional schools.
I write this not just as the head of a think tank. I have two children that attend school at APS. The district has plenty of resources, especially when it comes to facilities, but it needs to manage them more efficiently.
Voters in APS have been very generous in approving APS construction bonds over the years. (This) is a massive, unnecessary tax hike. It is time for voters to demand APS does more with what it already has before forcing taxpayers to cough up more of their hard-earned money.
The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.
Albuquerque — The Rio Grande Foundation is one of 18 organizations across the country listed as co-signers on an “amicus brief” filed recently in support of Kathleen Uradnik, a university professor in Minnesota, in her US Supreme Court lawsuit, Uradnik vs Inter Faculty Association.
The amicus brief submitted by the Center of the American Experiment, challenges state laws that appoint a union to represent and speak for all workers, even those who disagree with it – an arrangement known as “exclusive representation.”
Uradnik, who has had major disputes with her faculty’s labor union, which has discriminated against her, is nonetheless required by state law to associate with it and to allow it to speak for her. New Mexico has similar laws imposing exclusive representation upon public employees, limiting their freedoms and opportunities for advancement.
“The Supreme Court’s Janus decision freed government workers throughout New Mexico and the nation from being forced to financially support unions. Unfortunately, there is much work to be done to ensure true worker freedom,” said Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing. “Opponents of ‘right to work’ laws and the Janus decision complain about the so-called ‘free rider’ problem. They should join us in supporting Kathleen Uradnik as a successful effort on her behalf would eliminate unions’ burden of representing workers who have chosen not to pay their dues.”
A win for Uradnik would strike down such laws nationwide, another major blow against union favoritism and in favor of First Amendment rights. The amicus brief encourages the Supreme Court to hear the case, hopefully in its 2019 session.
Any state or local government employees (teacher, fire, police, service, or admin) who wants more control over their families’ financial security and who may have questions about their rights in the aftermath of the historic Janus ruling by the US Supreme Court last summer can find out more about their restored freedoms and their unions’ activities at https://www.mypaymysay.com/state/nm/ . In short, the high cost of union dues means less money in employees’ paychecks and more money toward a system teachers don’t control.
On this week’s Tipping Point Paul sits down with Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas.
Maestas represents a portion of Albuquerque’s West Side. Maestas, a Democrat, is among the longest tenured members of the House.
Among the many topics Moe and Paul discuss are New Mexico’s poverty and why it remains relatively poor, the ideological makeup of the House and how that will comport with the more conservative Senate, and New Mexico’s nature as a relatively rural state.
Moe and Paul have a robust conversation about the oil and gas industry and its role in New Mexico, education policy and spending, film subsidies and economic development, and criminal justice policy (including marijuana legalization).
The Associated Builders and Contractors is a coalition of free market contractors and other businesses in the construction industry. Every year they produce a “Merit Shop Scorecard” which rates each US state on its adherence to free market ideas and the strength of its overall construction industry.
At the end of 2015 New Mexico rated a dismal 51st due to its poor legal/regulatory environment and poor economic conditions. Since then New Mexico has risen in the Index and is now 43rd largely due to (relatively) strong economic growth. Alas, no significant economic reforms have been enacted by the Legislature, nor are they expected.
As the Rio Grande Foundation has pointed out repeatedly, New Mexico’s lack of economic freedom has made it less attractive than its neighbors when it comes to economic development or as a relocation destination. Recent Census Bureau data place neighboring Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas among the 10 fastest growing states. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]