Archive for August, 2013

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera met with members of the Chamber Board in August and gave an update on education priorities at the state level.

Intervention Before Retention

The goal of this initiative is to ensure that all students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade and prepared to learn.  This initiative ensures that all students, parents and teachers are given the tools necessary (early assessments and targeted interventions) to succeed in reading:

Supporting Struggling Schools & Rewarding Excellence

School grades were designed to identify and help struggling schools while highlighting successful schools. This system measures individual student growth over a three year period and the calculation model accounts for circumstances unique to each school. Graduation rates, and their improvement over time, are also factors.  By offering support to our struggling schools and rewarding schools that closing the achievement gap for their students, we are honoring our commitment to real accountability to achieve real results.

Rewarding and Championing Effective Teachers and Principals

Proposed legislation would align teacher advancement pathways within the three tier system to be based on effectiveness. Right now, advancement is based only on years of service and credentials, conflicting with New Mexico’s new evaluation system. Ensuring the two systems are aligned will not only better equip teachers for success, but also positively impact student achievement. Under the current binary evaluation system, a teacher either “meets competency” or does not and over 98% of teachers in New Mexico “meet competency”. This is not commensurate with our student achievement data. Studies have shown dramatic strides in closing the achievement gap when students are taught by highly effective teachers.

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

43% of the state’s budget goes to K-12 education and New Mexicans deserve to see a better return on their investment. The goal is to invest taxpayer dollars “below the line” on proven reforms that will yield measurable results for spending accountability.

 

 

 

In the past few months the Santa Fe City Council and other City committees have spent hours discussing topics such as gun control, same sex marriage, grocery bag bans, cell phone towers, marijuana use, global warming and fireworks impacts on pets.

Arguably, any decisions the Council makes have little or no impact on these issues. They are nice PR, show that we care, and achieve absolutely nothing for the average Santa Fe resident.

Meanwhile down here in the real world of messy local government we read this in the recent local media:

“Among U.S. cities with high pension costs, Moody’s notes that Santa Fe, New Mexico, has net pension liabilities equal to six times its operating revenue, worse than any other city.”

And this: “Santa Fe has more than $7 million in unpaid parking tickets on its books and another $4 million in unpaid utility bills. All together, city hall is looking to collect a total of some $14 million in unpaid bills.”

And this: “The Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Commission unanimously approved a motion recommending that an independent audit of the 2008 parks and trails bond be conducted to determine: Were all bond monies spent specifically to improve parks and trails per the bond language? And how much of the bond monies were spent on city staff salaries?”

And this: “The City’s “questionable purchase” of a $500,000 data backup system that isn’t being used and appears to be nonfunctional.”

And this: ““Eleven city managers for the last three mayors is dysfunctional and a disservice to the citizens of Santa Fe,””

Clearly answers are needed. Local businesspeople are very concerned about these headlines and what the consequences are for our fiscal stability and reputation. Can we be sure that our tax monies are being spent in a prudent manner with appropriate oversight? Local residents and media should be paying attention to issues over which we can have some control and not be distracted by issues over which we have no control.

It is already election season with only 30 weeks left to campaign for mayoral and council seats. There are at least fifteen candidates who have already declared or rumored to be interested in running for local office. Ten of the fifteen have held public office before. Let’s all pay attention to their positions and experience. As voters we deserve leadership that focuses on efficient government and accountability.