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OAK NM in ABQ Journal: Educate yourself and vote on school board, bond, mill levy

The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on October 10, 2021.

This fall, voters in the Albuquerque Public Schools service area have some important issues to consider when they vote. For starters, it has been well-documented that in each of the four seats up for election this fall, none of the incumbents will appear on the ballot. In other words, the APS school board is in for some significant changes, no matter what the results are.

What that change looks like will be up to the voters.

My organization, OAKNM, sent surveys to all candidates for school board in APS and numerous other larger school districts across the state to ask for candidates’ views on big issues facing school boards. In Albuquerque, these included everything from splitting APS into multiple districts to masking kids and the role of charter schools.

Whether candidates completed these and other surveys or not, there are two clear sets of candidates: those who support and receive support from the unions and those who don’t. Typically, union support has been the deciding factor in local school board races, but, with this election occurring at the same time as the Albuquerque mayoral and City Council elections – not to mention the United soccer stadium vote – everyone expects higher turnout than seen in the past.

As an education reformer, this makes me happy. Given everything our kids have gone through over the past 18 months, our education system, already ranked at the bottom, failed our children completely. Of course, we don’t know just how badly because the state’s standardized test for 2020 and 2021 was administered to only a fraction of the student population, or not at all. Estimates vary, but we’ve seen figures for lost time ranging from a few weeks to more than a year.

Do you believe the situation was handled well? Do you think it was appropriate for unions to play an outsized role in reopening, masking and even vaccination policies during the pandemic? Are you concerned that the Sheryl Williams Stapleton scandal is only the tip of the iceberg? If so, you need to vote in this election and get yourself educated on the issues facing the district.

In addition to the school board races, APS has quietly placed (a $200 million general obligation bond and) a property tax question on ballots. The question on the ballot asks for a tax levy of $3.838 per $1,000 of net taxable value on residential property and $4.344 on non-residential. The question(s are) with billions of stimulus money flowing into New Mexico schools, students fleeing APS in droves and the Legislature sitting on “more money than they know what to do with,” per the Senate Finance Committee chairman, why is APS asking for (more)?

Here in Albuquerque and across New Mexico, education reform is on the ballot. Voters need to get educated about the candidates and issues that will, at long last, pull our state out of last place. Get out to vote and take a friend or relative with you.

Opportunity for All Kids New Mexico, www.oaknm.org, is an organization dedicated to reforming New Mexico’s education system.

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RGF’s Gessing discusses Laramie, WY student arrest for mask refusal

This week RGF President Paul Gessing had an opportunity to provide (School) Choice Media’s Story of the Day. The story was regarding a student in a liberal part of Wyoming (Laramie) that was arrested and pulled out of the school in handcuffs for refusing to wear a mask.

You can watch the short story below.

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Comment today on PED’s critical race theory laden social security standards!

Please see the following comments regarding the Public Education Department’s proposed social security curriculum. (Here is a PDF of our comments). See the actual comments below the discussion of HOW to submit your own!

PED is NOW accepting public comments and will do so until November 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. (MDT). There will be a public hearing  Friday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (MDT) at Mabry Hall in Santa Fe.

All written rule feedback should be submitted to:

  • Emailrule.feedback@state.nm.us
  • Fax505-827-6520
  • Mail: Policy Division, Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501

After a careful examination of New Mexico’s proposed social studies curriculum there are numerous components of that curriculum which disturbingly reflect Critical Race Theory (CRT). Large numbers of Americans of all political leanings oppose CRT and its divisive approach to history. Therefore this proposed curriculum needs to be significantly revised or completely abandoned.

CRT is not America’s actual history. Rather, it is a worldview, unsupportable by the evidence, in which all of America’s key institutions are inextricably rooted in white supremacy. It is an activist agenda demanding the destruction of those institutions.

CRT holds that racism is embedded deeply in American life, unconsciously into white American psyches, and that it is impossible for white Americans to understand their own racism or that of the system, let alone to remove it. The only solution: tearing away the only systems that have ever provided widespread liberty and prosperity. As CRT founder Derrick Bell wrote, “The whole liberal worldview of private rights and public sovereignty mediated by the rule of law needed to be exploded.”

  1. In Ethics, Cultural and Identity Studies there is a requirement that students assess how social policies and economic forces “offer privilege or systemic inequity in accessing social, political, and economic opportunity.” This is classic CRT theology. 6.29.11.23(A)(1)(d)
  2. Throughout the entire social studies curriculum for K-8 grades, there is a continue focus on the differences, rather than the similarities, among various groups of people.  This, too, is classic CRT as the purpose is to divide people among various minority groups, which can quickly lead to victimhood.
  3. There are also numerous examples where a teacher can impose the notion of “justice and fairness,” unequal power relations, “past and current injustices”, although those terms are open to many interpretations. These phrases are also classic CRT as it perpetrates the sense of inequity in our society along racial lines. 6.29.11.11(E)(2) and 6.29.11.15(E)(7) and 6.29.11.15(E)(12)
  4. Within High School U.S. History, a requirement that students “evaluate what an efficient, equitable, and just economic system would look like in the U.S.”  This is again classic CRT as it imposes the belief on students that our current capitalistic system must be eliminated to eliminate racism. 6.29.11.21(A)(1)(i)
  5. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to create an action plan for a more just and equitable America for diverse groups of people including Native Americans and African Americans.  This is another CRT theology component in that America is automatically unjust and inequitable to various minority groups.  6.29.11.21(A)(3)(kk)
  6. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to examine the past, present, and future of gun violence in the U.S. Of course, there are no standards provided to discuss the constitutional rights of gun owners, or that individuals, not an inanimate object, are responsible for gun violence in America or how gangs, drug cartels, etc. have resulted in greater gun violence in our society. No positives regarding gun usage by women or minority groups are put forth. 6.29.11.21(A)(1)(gg)
  7. In the 5th Grade, students are required to describe how inequity in the U.S. laid the foundation for conflict that continues today. Another classic example of CRT as it stresses racial disparity in terms of inequality. 6.29.11.13(A)(3)(b)
  8. Within High school U.S. History, students must examine the short-and long-term effects of CIA involvement in Latin America. How about pairing this with a discussion of Communism and the negative impact it has had in Cuba and other Latin American nations. 6.29.11.21(A)(1)(x)
  9. In the 7thGrade, students must compare the patterns of exploration, destruction and occupation of the Americas by the Spaniards. 6.29.11.15(D)(3)(g)
  10. Within High School U.S. History, students must explore the movement against police brutality.  6.29.11.21(A)(3)(mm)

The novelist William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It is true that any social studies curriculum will have its flaws and oversights. History and social studies are inherently controversial subjects. But, selectively “studying” our collective history and requiring it to be taught in a highly politicized and divisive way is wrong and it has no place in our public schools.

All I ask is that New Mexico’s schools do their best to objectively teach America’s real history. Slavery and conquest are certainly part of that, but so is America as a beacon of freedom for people from around the world. The flaws of our Founding Fathers are worth discussing, but so are the miracles of the Constitution, Declaration, and the eventual fulfillment of the “promissory note” for ALL Americans inherent in those documents.

Millions of people around the world have and would still like to come to America because it is a unique nation founded on the idea of liberty, not slavery as the CRT theorists would insist. New Mexico’s social studies curriculum should at least allocate as much time and study to those things that make America a beacon of hope and freedom as those warts which hold us back from building a more perfect union.

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Double teacher salaries???

At OAK NM we remain open-minded about new PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. But, if this is in fact what he just told the LESC (the education-oriented arm of the Legislature) he is “out to lunch.”

According to data from none other than the NEA, New Mexico’s teacher pay is somewhat lower than average (ranked 32nd overall). Keep in mind that New Mexico has a low cost of living relative to other states. Doubling New Mexico’s average teacher salary woulndn’t just make our teacher pay “competitive.” It would blow #1 New York out of the water.

Does Steinhaus REALLY not know these basic statistics? Hopefully he has some more cost-effective and creative ways to getting New Mexico out of dead-last in education.   

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Comment on Critical Race Theory in MLG’s proposed social studies curriculum

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Education Department just released its new social studies standards. You can find all 122 pages here. As described below the standards are rife with Critical Race Theory (CRT) themes and other questionable material that may not fit squarely within CRT (read more on what that means here).

Before getting into some of the specific problems with the proposed standards, PED is NOW accepting public comments and will do so until November 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. (MDT). There will be a public hearing  Friday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (MDT) at Mabry Hall in Santa Fe.

All written rule feedback should be submitted to:

  • Emailrule.feedback@state.nm.us
  • Fax505-827-6520
  • Mail: Policy Division, Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501

Here is a rundown of SOME of the problems with the proposed standards:

  1. In Ethics, Cultural and Identity Studies there is a requirement that students assess how social policies and economic forces “offer privilege or systemic inequity in accessing social, political, and economic opportunity.” This is classic CRT theology.   6.29.11.23(A)(1)(d)
  2. Throughout the entire social studies curriculum for K-8 grades, there is a continue focus on the differences, rather than the similarities, among various groups of people.  This, too, is classic CRT as the purpose is to divide people among various minority groups, which can quickly lead to victimhood.
  3. There are also numerous example where a teacher can impose the notion of “justice and fairness,”  unequal power relations, “past and current injustices”, although those terms are open to many interpretations.  These phrases are also classic CRT as it perpetrates the sense of inequity in our society along racial lines.  6.29.11.11(E)(2) and 6.29.11.15(E)(7) and 6.29.11.15(E)(12)
  4. Within High School U.S. History, a requirement that students “evaluate what an efficient, equitable, and just economic system would look like in the U.S.”  This is again classic CRT as it imposes the belief on students that our current capitalistic system must be eliminated in order to eliminate racism.   6.29.11.21(A)(1)(i)
  5. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to create an action plan for a more just and equitable America for diverse groups of people including Native Americans and African Americans.  This is another CRT theology component in that America is automatically unjust and inequitable to various minority groups.  6.29.11.21(A)(3)(kk)
  6. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to examine the past, present, and future of gun violence in the U.S.  Of course, there are no standards provided to discuss the constitutional rights of gun owners, or that individuals, not an inanimate object, are responsible for gun violence in America or how gangs, drug cartels, etc. have resulted in greater gun violence in our society. No positives regarding gun usage by women or minority groups are put forth.    6.29.11.21(A)(1)(gg)
  7. In the 5th Grade, students are  required to describe how inequity in the U.S. laid the foundation for conflict that continues today.  Another classic example of CRT as it stresses racial disparity in terms of inequality.  6.29.11.13(A)(3)(b)
  8. Within High school U.S. History, students must examine the short-and long-term effects of CIA involvement in Latin America. How about pairing this with a discussion of Communism and the negative impact it has had in Cuba and other Latin American nations.    6.29.11.21(A)(1)(x)
  9. In the 7thGrade, students must compare the patterns of exploration, destruction and occupation of the Americas by the Spaniards.   6.29.11.15(D)(3)(g)
  10. Within High School U.S. History, students must explore the movement against police brutality.   6.29.11.21(A)(3)(mm)

RGF will be formulating its own comments in a subsequent post, but you are encouraged to submit your own and highlight this.

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Did you know? Albuquerque Public Schools is “hiding” a property tax increase on your ballot

Have you heard about the property tax hike on ballots in areas served by Albuquerque Public Schools this fall? We took a pretty close look at the APS website and saw no mention of it. We haven’t seen ANY coverage in the local media either. (If you have, send it to us at: info@riograndefoundation.org).

Voters need to be armed with this information when early voting begins on October 5.

Here’s the language directly from this fall’s ballot:

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PED: Lost standardized test data (for 2020 and 2021), lost learning

The Albuquerque Journal has reported that New Mexico’s Public Education Department won’t be releasing standardized test results from its spring 2020 testing. The stated reason is that 10% of public school students participated in testing last school year.

The test (implemented by Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Administration) is called New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement, or NM-MSSA, is designed to measure English and math proficiency for students in third through eighth grade. It was originally slated to be administered in the spring of 2020 as a replacement to the PARCC exam which had been in place during the Martinez Administration.

Perhaps more troubling (considering that THIS lost data is from late 2020 when the Pandemic was just getting started) is the fact that we won’t have solid data on student performance from 2021 either.

According to Alexis Alvarez, PED’s director of accountability. “Reliable statewide data concerning academic losses or improvements will likely not be available until 2023 due to pandemic related testing issues and the state’s move away from the PARCC test to the NM-MSSA.”

Alvarez said metrics like growth require at least two points of time to be compared, which requires the test to be administered with high levels of participation at least twice – something that won’t happen until 2023 at the earliest.

Plenty of data show serious impacts from lost classroom time, but New Mexico families won’t know the full scope of the damage for some time.

 

 

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What’s behind spike in NM teacher retirements?

According to recent news reports the number of retirements in New Mexico’s public school system has spiked by 40% this year. According to the Associated Press, Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Johanna King said exit interviews “show many reasons for retiring, including health reasons, feeling overworked, leaving New Mexico, and not liking remote teaching.”

Those are all likely and reasonable causes. While there has been a well-publicized increase in pursuit of education alternatives (everything from home school to charters) during the pandemic, the unions claiming to represent teachers have largely driven policy in “blue states” like New Mexico.

But, it is easy to forget that throughout the pandemic and numerous policies (often supported by the unions) haven’t necessarily been supported by large numbers of actual teachers. If anything, THAT seems likely to be the biggest issue.

  1. It is going to be a challenge for New Mexico and other states to find teachers and other professionals to replace retirees;
  2. This is just another reminder that government-run and managed monopolies don’t just hurt students. They often drive frustration among professionals who feel more like cogs in a machine than respected, trained professionals.
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New PED secretary Steinhaus, high aspirations, few specifics, laudable approach on poverty

The Albuquerque Journal had two front-page stories in Sunday’s paper interviewing Gov. Lujan Grisham’s new PED secretary Kurt Steinhaus. You can find them HERE and HERE.

As usual, especially from a Democratic administration that desires and generally has the political support of the unions, it is a mixed-bag. Steinhaus states early on in one article, “I want us to be fastest growing in the country is in student achievement.” That is a worthwhile goal, but he offers few specifics as to how he plans to actually reach that goal.

Interestingly, Steinhaus speaks favorably of “short cycle assessments.” That means testing along the lines of what was considered controversial under the Martinez Administration.

He discusses charter schools (New Mexico’s most notably form of “school choice.” And, while he doesn’t seem to oppose them, he tempered his support saying, “we have to be thoughtful about the impact it has on the rest of the schools and the community. If it impacts funding in a negative way, we’ll have to sit down and look and see if that’s being helpful or if it’s getting in the way.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement or call to improve the existing law in order to make them an even better option.

Steinhaus doesn’t have a strong position on “social promotion” one way or the other.

Finally and to his credit, Steinhaus seems unwilling to use the cop-out that New Mexico kids can’t learn due to poverty. He specifically draws a distinction between poverty and literacy problems and discusses ways in which the system can help impoverished children.

Broader school choice policies or COVID policies like masking in classrooms were not discussed in the interviews.