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Educators take issue with speech

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Politics > Garcia Richard was hoping for changes to teacher eval system

By Tris DeRoma

SANTA FE — Of course, not everyone in the audience necessarily agreed with everything the governor was pushing for in her State-of-the-State address.
Though she welcomed Martinez’ message of bipartisanship, State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Rio Arriba) disagreed with the governor over some points she made in her State of the State address.
“In regards to education, after the Los Alamos School District and teachers jointly petitioned the public education department to rethink this flawed teacher evaluation system, I was hopeful that real changes could be made,” she said. “I had been encouraged by the recent visit with Secretary (Hanna) Skandera. Unfortunately, what we heard today was strong language that the governor is doubling down on the teacher evaluation system. As we have seen in Los Alamos, that is setting our schools up for failure.”
Garcia Richard, a teacher in the Pojoaque school district, also didn’t believe Martinez’ statement regarding education funding to be entirely accurate, either.
“In regards to the governor’s statement that her administration is funding education at the highest level ever, I believe that is simply not true. I believe she can claim that “below the line” funding for specific projects is greater than in the past. Sadly, that increase has come at the expense of cutting ‘above the line’ funding, which is the budget for general education expenses. That’s money for classrooms and teachers. Although we were able to increase funding last year we are still below where we used to be in real dollars,” she said.
Garcia Richard also called her plan to hold back third graders until they read at the required level “misguided.”
“The governor also spoke about early intervention for reading difficulties. This is something I strongly support and will be happy to work with her on this. However, the plan to require mandatory retention for third graders, who don’t test at grade level, is misguided. There are several empirical studies that indicate retention actually increases the dropout rate,” she said.
Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers, New Mexico, also took issue with Martinez’ statement that the state has devoted more funds to public education than at any time in its history as a state.
“She’s advocating for money below the line, so she can do her pet projects,” Ly said. “But, what’s interesting is that it’s adding more government control with that money. And so, it’s in direct conflict with what she says about having less government. So this year she wants to propose more money that the government wants to control.”
Representatives from Somos Un Pueblo Unido were furious with the governor over her fifth attempt at repealing the law that grants licenses to illegal immigrants.
“The governor is doing a terrible disservice to New Mexicans by forcing the driver’s license issue for a fifth time while our state falls deeper into poverty and our children continue to suffer the tragic consequences of a broken education and child welfare system,” said SUPU representative Marcela Diaz.
Garcia Richard also weighed in on the controversial subject, hoping the governor shows a willingness to work with those on the other side of the issue.
“In regards to repealing driver’s licenses for undocumented persons, I hope the governor keeps her promise to work together and present a bipartisan bill that can be passed. This is a complicated and personal issue for many people in our district and around the state,” she said. “In previous years, the governor has presented this issue as an all or nothing game and a compromise was not put on the table. While I understand the need for repeal, I also believe that everyone who is here legally — including those with lawful status — deserves a state-issued drivers’ license. In the past, the governor has intentionally left or created a second tier license for individuals the federal government deems here legally. The governor has used this issue for political gain and I hope it is finally put to bed this session.”