A group of conservative lobbyists and legislators, like Senator Brandt, are continuously working to privatize and defund public education and are attempting to disguise their efforts as school “choice.”

Senate Bill 109 titled “Education Freedom Accounts” proposes the creation of a mechanism that would divert money from New Mexico public schools directly to private schools.

When schools struggle, privatization advocates invariably propose “school choice” as the solution. But the academic results of private school choice and the way it has been used historically reveal the continued reality of school segregation, even after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

Tuition vouchers, private school tax credits and private, for-profit charter schools severely undermine our public schools. Senate Bill 109 fails to address the reality that private schools and voucher programs have a history rooted in systemic racism with their creation being in direct response to the Brown v Board of Education ruling. To this day, private schools are not held to the same standards preventing discrimination, because private schools are not required to follow federal civil rights laws as public schools do. Antithetical to the core belief of public schools where all are welcomed and celebrated, private schools can and frequently do limit their admissions based on race, gender, sexual orientation and even academic ability.

Programs masked as “school choice” deplete funds from public schools and as a result increase racial and economic segregation. Private schools lack the academic accountability that public schools have. Decades of voucher programs across the U.S. have proven that they fail the very children they are supposed to benefit.

Our public schools are sometimes imperfect, but the only real choice is this: Do we bolster our public schools or not? We must invest in our public schools if we want them to succeed. We must strengthen our schools’ ability – as the community resources they are – to provide for children’s well-being, children’s learning and educators’ capacity to teach in collaboration with their colleagues.

Anyone who truly wants to ensure that every child in New Mexico has the great education they deserve will fight to make every public school a place where parents want to send their children, where students are engaged, and where teachers want to teach.

Billie Helean 


Rio Rancho School Employees Union

(Disclosure: Billie Helean contributes her regular Backyard Birds column to the Observer on a volunteer basis)