By House Republican Leader Jim Townsend (Artesia)

As the 2022 Legislative Session begins, lawmakers are going to be confronted with a slew of problems. No one needs to be reminded that New Mexico continues to land at or near the bottom of every critical ranking to know that our state is in dire need of change. From crime, healthcare, economic opportunity, child wellbeing, and education, the progressive policymakers who are leading our state have failed in creating a thriving New Mexico. And once again, these same elected lawmakers will try to chip away at some of these mounting problems rather than fixing what we all know is the core problem --- a failed educational system that is shortchanging our children and grandchildren while also offering a bleak future for our state.

How do we expect incomes to rise, crime to decrease, and the quality of life to improve when New Mexico's public K-12 schools are dead last compared to every other state? We can't. But, the progressives' solution is simply to throw more and more money at this, a broken system. In other words, we are draining our savings account to continually repaint and patch walls on a house that has a deteriorating foundation; the house just needs to be rebuilt.

We also have failed to recognize our school funding formula, an idea meant to provide equality in education across the state, has actually resulted in creating major disparities in the quality of education statewide. In far too many cases, we are locking low-income families into attending failed schools simply because of their address. Sadly, kids in the far northeast heights of Albuquerque are receiving a far better learning experience than those in central Albuquerque or the south valley.

The result of our inaction is more kids are either not graduating or being moved through the system, which means a whole generation is unprepared to enter the workforce or have the skills to go to college. This lack of hope in the future among our youth will undoubtedly lead to more crime and more reliance on government assistance—perpetuating the cycle our state is currently in.

The reality is our broken public schools will never change if unions and progressive policymakers continue to be in charge. Instead, we need a new approach that will truly give parents the freedom to decide how their kids are educated. We must eliminate the practice of sending our education dollars to schools that have a poor track record of success and allow parents to use those same tax dollars in making a choice when it comes to their kids' education. This session, we will propose a constitutional amendment to provide that choice. The people of New Mexico should decide whether we keep funding a broken system, or should we permit parents a range of educational options that best fit the needs of their children.

Nothing will change in our state until we truly commit to education reform that focuses on choice and accountability. Until that happens, those in charge will continue to protect the current system at the expense of students and our future.

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