There’s good news from Arizona’s neighbors. New Mexico’s newly elected governor, Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor, is putting her state on the path to real education reform. In her first press conference as governor-elect, she commented on Florida’s successful education reforms:
“The Florida model is a proven one…We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to do what is best for New Mexico as quickly as possible.”
Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with our sister organization in New Mexico, the Rio Grande Foundation, on an education reform plan for that state. That plan was laid out in a paper comparing the Nation’s Report Card scores in Florida and New Mexico, which showed that several of Florida's most disadvantaged student groups score higher than the statewide average for all students in New Mexico.
In November, I was invited to testify before a joint interim committee of the New Mexico Senate and House Education committees on that plan. New Mexico has a deep and bipartisan desire to improve their schools, visible in this video taken after the testimony. Regardless of philosophy or partisanship, the New Mexicans I have met don’t want to be the “Appalachia of the 21st Century” any more than we do here in Arizona.
To prove she means business, Governor Martinez nominated Hanna Skandera, a former Florida Deputy Education Commissioner, to be New Mexico’s Secretary of Education.
No one can predict what policymakers in the Land of Enchantment will decide to do, but the need for reform is clear. In 2009, 48 percent of New Mexico fourth graders couldn’t read at grade level. Here’s hoping policymakers in New Mexico, Arizona, and around the country will move forward with these important reforms.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute.
Capitol Report: NM Legislators listen to “Florida Model” for Public Education
Education Week: Jeb Bush's Influence on Education Policy Spreads