Education Options Key to Breaking Poverty Cycle
By Joe Montes / New Mexico State Director, Americans for Prosperity on Wed, Feb 6, 2013
Recently, as I passed the office at a local Catholic school, I noticed the front office staff struggling to translate for an older, Spanish-speaking woman who had come to inquire about enrolling her granddaughter in kindergarten for the next academic year.
After assisting in the translation, the woman told me that she was prepared to make every sacrifice necessary to make a monthly tuition payment in order to secure a quality education for her granddaughter.
The child, she said, comes from a broken home. She felt she had failed in raising her own daughter (the child’s mother), and was determined not to allow the same mistakes to occur in the next generation. The best chance for breaking that generational cycle, she believed, was at such a school.
Indeed, New Mexico is overflowing with such stories. Last year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a child well-being report entitled “Kids Count.” The report ranked New Mexico 49th in education, based on indicators such as math and reading proficiency. We see the product of this poor educational environment in the high school dropout rate.
Earlier this month, Gov. Susana Martinez announced with considerable fanfare at Rio Rancho High School that New Mexico had “achieved” a four-year graduation rate of 70 percent in 2012 — a sobering statistic. This was up 7 percent from the previous year when New Mexico again ranked 49th — only besting Nevada — among the states in the same graduation rate.
Unsurprisingly, this dismal failure in educational achievement across the state correlates to last week’s news that Medicaid funded 70 percent of births in New Mexico.
By failing to provide our children with a quality education, our residents are stuck in a cycle of poverty, unable to break out. And that program is set to expand to an additional 170,000 New Mexicans next year due to Martinez’s agreement to expand Medicaid as provided for under Obamacare. That will bring 800,000 New Mexicans onto Medicaid rolls — a whopping 40 percent of the state’s population.
Recently, Forbes Magazine listed New Mexico as a state on a “death spiral” trajectory. One only needs to read and understand the previous two paragraphs to know why.
As that grandmother I met at the Catholic school knows intuitively, there are some things that parents and families can and must do. One is to seek out the best educational opportunities for their children. And perhaps the greatest is to make the sacrifices necessary to provide those opportunities to those children.
As we celebrate the annual National School Choice Week this year, our legislative and executive leaders have an opportunity to assist New Mexico’s families by providing better educational opportunities for families in our state by permitting more charter schools throughout the state and providing for opportunity scholarships for students.
The latter would allow parents to transfer an educational credit to the school affording the best education for their child. Introducing choice and competition into our failing school system will spur the advancements we so desperately need.
Thus far, this year’s legislative session has seen only a few efforts that nibble at the margins on charter schools and none that address opportunity scholarships.
New Mexico is, as Forbes says, in the throes of a “death spiral.” We need to fundamentally change the paradigm of education in the state.
Expanding school-choice opportunities for families is one way to make that change and leave a lasting impact. I myself know of one grandmother seeking out that opportunity as we speak — and she is more than willing to do her part for her granddaughter.
Are our elected representatives prepared to do theirs?