N.M. party opposes amendments

N.M. party opposes amendments

Raid on fund deemed unsustainable.
by Green Party of New Mexico†

Wed 10/01/03†
GreenPages, Vol 7, No.3

The Green Party of New Mexico has come out in opposition to proposed state constitutional amendments purportedly aimed at “Educational Reform”. The Greens believe that the promised benefits to our public schools will quickly evaporate.

“To raid our schools’ permanent fund is simply bad policy,” said Natasha Williamson, Green Party of Santa Fe co-chair and state party media coordinator. “This proposal merely robs our grandchildren’s educational resources for the sake of our children’s.”

Williamson noted that both the Legislative Finance Committee and the State Investment Council project long term losses to the Permanent Fund if Constitutional Amendment 2 becomes law.†

“We suspect that this money will only be used to fund the testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, and not the promised pay raises or infrastructure improvements,” Williamson said. “Nor is there any guarantee that the legislature won’t cut funding by a similar amount and spend it elsewhere.”

The Greens’ alternative is to put more money into the Permanent Fund rather than to divert money out. “By raising the severance tax on gas, oil, and minerals ó and by enforcing payment of these taxes ó the state could greatly increase the value of the Permanent Fund and its payouts to the schools,” said Rick Lass, a member of the State Green Council. “Currently, the state makes deals with the oil companies to let them off their long-standing obligations for as little as seven cents on the dollar.”

The Greens also believe that the current practice of investing in huge Wall Street corporations from the body of the Permanent Fund is wrong. They said the state needs to examine its investment practices to ensure they are done in a socially responsible way.

In addition, the Green Party voted to oppose Constitutional Amendment 1, disputing claims that it would bring more accountability to education. “We don’t even know what the job descriptions of the Secretary or Education Commission will be,” Lass said. “In addition, we can expect to see more political and bureaucratic nightmares as new executive branch administrations and legislative postures come and go. And what about the costs of restructuring into a cabinet position?”†

“The proposed secretary position is responsible exclusively to the governor; to say it would bring more accountability to the office is unsupported,” said T.R. Knoblauch, co-chair of the Green Party of Santa Fe. “The governor already appoints five of the fifteen board members and has final approval of the annual education budget.”

The Greens’ solution is to put accountability standards in the hands of local boards. By empowering principals, teachers, parents, and the students themselves to make decisions on curriculum and other policies, the party believes the state can create schools in which the whole community feels it has a vested interest.

Money and resources currently being spent on distant administration and standardized testing could be diverted to fund teacher raises and fully cover daily classroom expenses, the party said. Another way of making more money available is the Cooperative Education Services, an established buying club through which local boards could receive volume discounts on supplies, insurance and other needs.†

Finally, the Green Party questioned the need for a special election. “Why not put the two million dollars that this election will cost directly into the schools and have these amendments on the 2004 ballot with the others from the session? What’s the rush?” Williamson said. “It’s particularly apalling since these same people oppose the Green Party’s major party status and primary elections as unnecessary expenses.”

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