The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association proclaims it provides one-third of the funding for our state’s schools.
Thank you, but now we need to change this!
Whether our students receive services they need should never depend on the price of a commodity. Our students need big changes to be made so our revenue system can sufficiently support the unmet needs of all our New Mexico students this year and into the future.
Education funding levels remain too low to provide all the services our students need, and educators are concerned that, as the oil and gas industries decline, the gap between student needs and state funding will grow even bigger.
Our kids deserve an education system funded by stable and consistent sources of revenue that do not also contribute to endangering their physical health and the future life on this planet and our own Land of Enchantment.
Educators appreciate the funding generated for our state’s education system from our neighbors in the oil and gas regions.
Unfortunately, this has also had negative consequences for students as school funding has risen and fallen along with that industry’s fortunes.
Efforts to provide professional salaries our Rio Rancho educators deserve are set back with every boom and bust cycle in the oil and gas industries, contributing to too-large classrooms missing adequate supplies and ongoing staff shortages.
For educators, relying on extractive industries has deeper problems than the instability it brings. Making matters worse, the long-term decline of oil and gas will drag down state revenues, leaving our students even farther behind.
States without extractive industries have found other ways to fund their schools, and their education systems are higher rated than ours. We can and must do the same.
If we are to improve education in New Mexico, revenues must be sufficient to support and expand our current educational programs. Future revenues must be more diverse and must grow to support expanded funding needs to meet all our student’s needs.
Diversifying our economy takes time and is subject to many forces outside of the government; diversifying revenues can and must be done quickly now.
Recent education funding gains must be secured with stable revenue streams independent of the whims of international oil markets.
Our state’s legislative leaders took one major step toward secure and stable revenue by sending to our voters the proposal to increase the payout to both K-12 and early childhood education. Wonderful as these steps are, they are not sufficient to maintain, much less improve, our system of public education.
Continuing to use our teachers and our kids’ education as pawns in a political game and as an excuse for more oil and gas development is shameful.
Condemning New Mexicans to a future dependent on oil and gas leaves education funding insufficient, unstable and increasingly subject to impacts from climate change like extreme drought and wildfires.
Let us advance tax policies that will secure stable, long-term funding that assures a bright future for New Mexico’s children.
Billie Helean
First-grade teacher, Rio Rancho Public Schools
President, Rio Rancho School Employees Union