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Posted January 19, 2011

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Legislative Update - Tuesday, January 18

On Jan. 18, Superintendent Brooks attended the State of the State address and the opening of the 2011 Legislative Session.

The House of Representatives has once again elected Rep. Ben Lujan as Speaker of the House along party line votes, 36 to 33. The Democrats nominated Lujan and the Republicans nominated Rep. Tom Taylor, Minority Floor Leader. There were no other nominations.  There may be some new chairmanships in some of the committees, which we will find out about in the next few days.

Representative Rhonda King and Senator Linda Lopez Respond

Click to read the democratic response to the Governor's comments on education during the State of the State Address  >>

Below is the portion of the text from the governor's speech relating to education. The entire address is also available

During difficult economic times, balancing the budget is not easy, but how we choose to go about the task is critical because our budget blueprint is a statement about our values.

That's why my budget protects core priorities like classroom spending in education and health care for those most in need.

By making cuts elsewhere, my budget only requires the education bureaucracy to trim 1.5 percent from the administration.

Only 1.5 percent.

Now, you've heard some special interest groups say this can't be done.

They claim there is no waste in the bureaucracy. Not even 1.5 percent.

I don't buy it and neither do the people of New Mexico.

New Mexicans are not fooled when bureaucrats, whose salaries are many times that of the average teacher, claim the only place to cut is from the classroom.

They're not fooled when a school district spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on PR staff and then claims it has nowhere to cut but the classroom.

Or when school districts waste education dollars hiring lobbyists but then claim that the budget must be balanced by cutting teachers.

The truth is, the waste is there and it must be eliminated.

In order to protect classroom spending in education and basic health care for those most in need, we must find savings elsewhere.

In order to attract and retain the jobs of tomorrow, we must make education reform a priority today.

When it comes to educating our children, we can no longer throw more and more money at the same system and expect different results.

A recent report by Education Week gave the system a failing grade - that's an "F" - on student achievement.

Unless we take decisive action to improve our schools, history will judge us harshly and rightfully so.

To reverse years of decline, we must place a command-focus on student performance and progress not just on how much money we're spending.

Too many are afraid to focus on student achievement, so we shuttle too many kids to the next grade, even if they haven't learned the basics.

That implicitly tells little boys and girls that it's okay that they don't achieve.

My fellow New Mexicans, telling children, regardless of how subtle, that they are not capable of achieving is morally wrong.

We must end the culture of low expectations.

Stop accepting failure.

This session, I propose a comprehensive reform package that will transform our schools.

Our "Kids First, New Mexico Wins" plan is comprised of four key initiatives.

First, we will get money out of the bureaucracy and into the classroom.

Today, only 61 cents of every education dollar makes it to the classroom.

Wasting money on lawyers in the Public Education Department in Santa Fe does nothing to help a child read in a Farmington classroom.

By cutting waste and inefficiency in the bureaucracy, we will increase the percentage of funds that reach the classroom.

So our kids will benefit.

Second, we will adopt an easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement system of grading.

Schools will be assigned letter grades A, B, C, D or F.

And these grades will be posted to the Web.

That's real accountability that will yield real results.

Greater accountability will ensure we identify struggling students in all grades.

And focus attention on the lowest-performing 25 percent of students. We will get them help immediately.

Just as we'll target struggling students with immediate help, so too will we target failing schools with immediate intervention.

Currently, it takes approximately five years to identify and intervene in a failing school.

Five years.

We can't wait that long to help these kids.

That's why they lose hope, that's why they drop out.

Third, we will end social promotion, the practice of passing children from one grade to the next before they have mastered the basics.

The New Mexico "Ready for Success" initiative will get struggling students the help they need before we pass them on to the next grade.

We aren't doing our kids any favors by thrusting students who aren't ready to advance into an environment where we know they have little to no chance for success.

Those kids fall further and further behind, they start seeing their dreams slipping out of reach.

They get frustrated and disappointed and many eventually give up.

But by identifying a student's challenges in the early grades, we can give them the help they need and lay a strong foundation as they move to the next grade.

Finally, we will reward New Mexico's best teachers.

The most important people in the lives of our students are parents and teachers.

The quality of our teachers is the key to improving our quality of education.

A system that evaluates and rewards excellence will attract the best and brightest to New Mexico classrooms.

As I stated just days ago, "Nothing we do is more indispensable to our future well-being or will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education."

Just as I view educating our children as a core function of government, I also believe providing public safety is one of our central responsibilities…

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