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Posted January 20, 2010

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Legislative Affairs Update: January 20, 2009

The latest news from the 2010 Legislative Session in Santa Fe.

The 2010 Legislative Session gets underway.

Yesterday Governor Bill Richardson gave his State of New Mexico speech.  Below you will find the text of the speech that applies to education.

Superintendent Winston Brooks was the guest of Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and attended the opening ceremonies of the 2010 New Mexico Legislature.

Even in a time of shortfall, I insist that education must remain our top investment.

Let me also be very clear, budget cuts are not an excuse for cutting quality, for rolling back accountability, for lowering our standards, or for giving up our responsibility to educate our children.

We have invested more than $1 billion in classroom spending—much of that for professional teacher salaries tied to increased accountability.

We rank third in the nation for percentage increase in average teacher salaries in the last decade and we’ve moved from forty-sixth to thirty-seventh in salary ranking.

And over that time, we have moved from 67 percent of core courses being taught by highly qualified teachers, to 98 percent.

Our investment in Pre-K and full-day kindergarten is paying off. New Mexico PreK graduates scored higher on early math and literacy skills than children who did not participate. And last year when the first class of full-day kindergarteners entered the third grade, and took their first round of standardized tests, they far outperformed third graders from previous years.

But I want us to go much further.

I want New Mexico be the first state in the nation to have a Hispanic Education Act. We will be held accountable for results-- by creating an annual report card on the status of Hispanic Education.

We will increase parental and community involvement and close the achievement gap.

We are also bringing back ten thousand dropouts to complete their education as part of our Graduate New Mexico initiative.

Through aggressive interventions into low-performing schools, we are going to make sure more of our young men and women enter the workforce with the skills to get better-paying jobs.

I will also continue my strong support for innovative charter schools. I believe the increased choices and competition charter schools provide is healthy for our state. That is why I will fight any move to place moratoriums on new schools.

Finally, while we have seen a positive return on our investment, we must always be accountable for taxpayer money and safeguard our limited educational resources.

To that end, I propose that all local school boards receive financial training to ensure they can hold schools accountable for the money they spend.

I also want school boards to establish strict policies and procedures to prevent the abuse of credit and purchase cards.

We must do all we can to stop fraud and abuse in our schools.

I would like to recognize the work of the Legislative Finance Committee and State Auditor Hector Balderas in uncovering, investigating, and prosecuting these abuses.

My bottom line is this: I don’t want to cut teacher salaries and I don’t want to cut classroom spending.

If we have to cut education spending, we should start with the bureaucracy and district administrations.

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