Steven's portion begins at 1:23:43.
Editor’s note: The following are remarks, slightly edited, that the Santa Fe school board president Steven Carrillo delivered at a joint meeting of the state House and Senate Education Committees on Feb. 2.
Regarding planning for and funding public education, we are at a crossroads.
Make no mistake about it. Our success here is not a “moonshot.” This is not building an atomic bomb or landing a man on the moon or curing cancer.
All of the tools, research and talent is right here in front of us. And it’s not about the money. Money finds worthy endeavors. Our success here is a moral decision and moral determination to do the right thing.
We, YOU, stand at a critical moment in time. Do we continue to choose mediocrity and underfunding as the norm? The Yazzie-Martinez court decision mandating more sources for public education says “NO.”
The governor says “Aim higher.” So let’s aim higher.
In this session, in THIS 60 days, we will demonstrate by our actions exactly who we are. And $500 million is NOT enough. We are underfunded by more than $340 million 10 years ago. To be innovators and leaders in public education, I would say you’re looking at $800 million. New teacher tiers with salaries of $45,000, $55,000 and $65,000 is a start. But in five years, let it be $60,000, $70,000 and $80,000, paying all of our teaching professionals AS professionals.
Of course, this constitutes a foundational and monumental change in the way we think about and fund public education. This may seem like a lot, but consider the results of building our education and economic future with three wheels when we needed four.
We must develop and implement highly competitive and selective higher education programs to attract our nation’s best potential educators; fund full-day universal pre-K and birth-to-4 supports and education; and develop 5-year and 10-year strategic plans with the overarching goal of New Mexico being in our nation’s top 10 for grad rates and core proficiencies.
This is all possible. Expensive and possible. Y’all know how to fund these things. We just have to WANT this. The ball is in your court.
What future for New Mexico are YOU willing to accept?
‘‘What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Words spoken by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Conversely, what you are not doing is positively deafening. Words appropriate to describe the 2015 legislative session as it relates to public education.
Gov. Susana Martinez and Legislature, by your inaction, you have proved once again your utter disdain for our public schools and the school-age children throughout our state.
It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what you’ve done. You have demonstrated your disregard for every national study that states soundly that investments in public schools and early childhood education are the foundations of, and requirements for, lasting economic development. You’ve disrespected our dedicated educators by not even considering meeting their increased cost-of-living expenses. You boast that the schools already receive 44 percent of the total budget, as if this is an amount to be proud of, an amount that meets your constitutional obligation to “sufficiently fund public education.”
This percentage is significantly less than our schools have received in past decades as well as far less than states realizing significant progress in their schools due to their commitments to public education. In real dollars, our schools statewide are underfunded by more than $350 million each year and have been so since 2007.
In Santa Fe, you provided an additional $500,000 to meet the growing needs of all of our 14,000 students. That’s $35.71 per student. And with the same stroke of the pen, you shackle our district with $1.8 million in unfunded mandates. This is money that we’ll now have to take right out of the classroom. No raises for teachers or any student support staff; not even to cover the cost increase of their health insurance. Cuts statewide in transportation that won’t allow for the replacement of aging school buses. The list goes on.
As our finance team works tirelessly to fund these mandates and present to the Public Education Department a balanced budget, we are forced to make unconscionable choices, as are districts throughout New Mexico.
I implore the governor to reconvene the Legislature in special session with two goals and two goals only. Pass the capital outlay bill and properly fund our public schools. On the latter, crucial first steps must include funding the mandates and approving a statewide pay increase for all public school staff to average 4 percent in the individual districts, or at a bare minimum, an amount to cover the increases in health and risk management insurance increases. Do this because it’s the morally right thing to do for our children and for our state.
The Santa Fe school board on Tuesday evening is scheduled to discuss policies related to public health concerns about vaccinations and student use of electronic cigarettes.
Board member Steven Carrillo says he wants to pursue new guidelines under which Santa Fe Public Schools would publicize online the percentage of students at each school who have received exemptions from state requirements for immunizations.
“I think parents would appreciate the opportunity to know how many students in their kid’s schools are getting these waivers for vaccinations,” Carrillo said in a phone interview.
New Mexico law requires all children enrolling in day care or school to have certain immunizations. Parents can apply for exemptions through the Department of Health for either medical or religious reasons. This school year, according to the department, 4,346 students received a waiver. Since 2012, the state agency says, the number of exemptions has increased by 60 percent.
In cases of religious exemptions, parents can either obtain a letter from a church officer explaining their anti-vaccination beliefs or they can complete a “certification of exemption” form. Department of Health officials told The New Mexican last month that most parents seeking a waiver opt for the latter. Through that form, parents sign a personal affidavit that affirms their religious beliefs do not permit the administration of vaccines to their child.
“If not vaccinating your kid is a growing trend,” Carrillo said, “then it’s something we should help parents be aware of.”
Health emergencies elsewhere have heightened concerns about people who aren’t vaccinated. Last week, officials in Rockland County, N.Y., banned anyone who is both under the age of 18 and unvaccinated against measles from entering public places. The county has been dealing with an outbreak of the once-vanquished contagious disease that since October has produced over 150 cases, the Associated Press reported.
In late January, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency after 26 confirmed measles cases in a southwestern county. Since then, the number of cases has jumped to 73, with infections in more than 50 children 10 and younger, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Also on the school board’s agenda is a discussion about rules and compliance related to electronic cigarettes. Like all tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and vaporizers are banned on Santa Fe Public Schools campuses. This school year, Santa Fe High principal Carl Marano says, the majority of discipline issues at the school have been related to electronic cigarettes.
“It’s definitely a rampant issue, not only in our community but statewide and nationwide,” Marano said. “I don’t think some students and parents understand the dangers of electronic cigarettes and the ways companies are using flavors and other marketing to make a financial gain off our young people.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, electronic cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, but most still contain nicotine, which is addictive. A 2018 study by the CDC found that 4.9 percent of middle school students and 20.8 percent of high school students used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days.
Currently at Santa Fe High, Marano says, students caught with electronic cigarettes are given an in-school suspension for the first offense and a suspension for the second.
“If it’s a repeated offense, the student either has an addiction or is just oblivious to policy,” Marano said. “I think stakeholders in our community need to be aware that this is an issue and see what we can do to come together as a community to say ‘let’s stop.’ ”
The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Service Center, 610 Alta Vista St.
It’s 2019! May this new year bring blessings, good health and prosperity to us all. And while the new year is a time for hope, it’s also a time for reflection.
The last eight years have not been good for New Mexico’s children. Ending this era of shame and disgrace, 2018 saw New Mexico at the bottom or near bottom of every major child wellness indicator: education, hunger, health care, homelessness, etc. This is not to be blamed on one party or another or solely the chief executive, for this responsibility rests with all of us. Every New Mexican has had opportunities to right this wrong and hasn’t. It’s now time to own this decadeslong debacle and move forward.
Let’s make 2019 the Year of the Child.
In this, the Year of the Child, our new governor and our elected representatives must pass legislation and forward policy that has at its foundation the overall wellness of our kids.
We must pass a budget which makes public education and services for our children cornerstones of our vision for New Mexico’s future. Imagine if you will, vibrant and relevant after school and summer programs for all of our children; arts and music education available in every school district; nurses, counselors, behavioral aides and education interventionists at all of our school sites statewide. There also will be parent supports for child-rearing education and the wrap-around and social service supports necessary to address the overall well-being of our children. And of course, we would be paying our teachers, administrators, and staff a “professional” wage and in so doing making New Mexico a desired and sought-after place to work and teach. This is what is possible in the Year of the Child.
In 2019 let’s finally use proceeds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to establish statewide, comprehensive and fully accountable programs for early childhood and birth to pre-K education available to all children. Never mind that forces over the years have kept legislation in this regard from making it out of committee and on to the floor. In this, the Year of the Child, we’re going to do the right thing and allow New Mexicans the opportunity to vote on these essential constitutional changes.
In 2019, we must recognize a serious weakness and completely overhaul our Public Education Department and foster greater collaboration with the Children, Youth and Families Department. Clearly the decisions and policies of the past have not been successful for our kids, our teachers or our public schools.
This means taking a hard look at every director/management position in the department and evaluating their respective competencies and achievements as they relate to the plan of the department. The Public Education Department must have leadership that embodies vision and inspires all those working in public education to summons their capacities for professional growth, innovation, and excellence.
In the Year of the Child, we finally will face head on the challenges related to sensible gun safety legislation. Now this does rest squarely with the governor and the Legislature.
Who in the Roundhouse has the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association and put child safety first? Our state must enact laws to provide for the necessary background checks at all points of sale or transfer of firearms, as a means of seeing to it that guns are not in the wrong hands. Additionally, laws related to owner responsibility for harm done with a firearm must be passed.
Obviously there are so many additional areas of policy and budget allocation that directly affect our children; a single- payer health plan being chief among them. We have the talent, professionals and community members to make tremendous gains for our kids. In the Year of the Child, we act as though our future depends on it.
The Santa Fe school board is looking to help organize a statewide pushback against a rising tide of electronic cigarette use by high school students.
The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a resolution asking school districts across New Mexico to lobby lawmakers to support legislation that would raise the legal age for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 from 18.
The resolution also seeks restrictions on e-cigarette advertising aimed at young people and calls for incorporating rules on such devices into tobacco-free laws and ordinances.
“The school board is responsible for the safety and well-being of our kids, so supporting legislation that equates vaping and alcohol is in our students’ best interest,” board member Steven Carrillo said Monday. “Our schools across the state represent over 300,000 kids and even more family members. Together, I think school communities can make a huge difference in this public health issue.”
The New Mexico Department of Health says the percentage of high school teens using cigars, cigarettes or smokeless tobacco dropped from 34 percent in 2003 to 17.5 percent in 2017. However, youth nicotine consumption did not decrease correspondingly during that period as 32.7 percent of high school youth used electronic cigarettes or some other form of nicotine product in 2017.
“Basically these companies had an open window for several years to promote and sell an addictive drug anywhere they wanted,” said David Tompkins, manager of community health initiatives in the New Mexico Department of Health’s tobacco use, prevention, and control program. “We’re starting to close the window, but not before we’re back where we were in 2003 in terms of youth tobacco use. It would be a big mistake for people to wait for federal policy. We’ve got a whole generation of kids becoming addicted to nicotine.”
In a 2017 survey by the state Department of Health, 24.7 percent of high schoolers said they had used an electronic cigarette in the past month, which is 3.9 percent above the national average.
Santa Fe High School Principal Carl Marano said 75 percent of the school’s disciplinary infractions this year were related to such devices.
High school students say e-cigarettes can be bought and distributed by senior students and used in a much more clandestine manner than smokeless tobacco or combustible cigarettes.
The Public Health Law Center, which aims to reduce and eliminate commercial tobacco, says New Mexico does not require a license or permit to sell electronic cigarettes.
“There’s a lack of acknowledgement of the fact that a lot of vaping goes on in the classroom. It’s very discreet. It’s hard for teachers to address it,” said Harvey McGuinness, a rising senior at Santa Fe High who serves as a student member of the school board and participates in The New Mexican’s Generation Next program for student journalists.
“I think raising the age to 21 definitely would help. It won’t solve the whole thing, but a lot of it is seniors are bringing it down to younger students.”
According to the American Lung Association, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have raised the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21. Last month, the North Carolina attorney general sued e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs, accusing the company of “deceptively downplaying the potency and danger of the nicotine” and waging advertising campaigns that targeted people under the legal smoking age.
“The quick rise in popularity is due to advertising and the flavors they offer,” Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García said. “I find it very disconcerting that they seem to have targeted kids with this strategy.”
In New Mexico, experts say raising the age minimum would be a crucial aspect of a broader solution.
“We know that 95 percent of addicted smokers start before they’re 18. Moving the age up to 21 will reduce usage,” Tompkins of the state Health Department said. ‘But we can’t just put the law down on a piece of paper. We need to combine it with public information campaigns and enforcement.”
The leaders of Santa Fe Public Schools may call a snow day Thursday and cancel classes so that parents, teachers and students can gather at the Roundhouse and voice their views on potential cuts to public education funding.
Calling a “snow day for action” might be an unusual move for a school district, particularly as the National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies and temperatures in the high 60s for Thursday. But Superintendent Veronica García said it is within the district’s right to close campuses — even without any sign of flurries — so that school supporters can have a chance to urge Gov. Susana Martinez to protect public education dollars as she prepares to sign off on New Mexico’s budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.
District spokesman Jeff Gephart said school officials are not specifically requesting that teachers and parents speak on behalf of Santa Fe Public Schools. “We are not asking anybody to support the school district opinion,” he said in an email. “We ask that each individual express his or her opinion regardless if that matches our stance.”
During a news conference Tuesday, when García announced the proposed snow day, as well as the district’s options to address a possible $5.5 million in what she called “draconian” spending cuts, the superintendent said, “We are in a crisis.” A budget reduction might lead to staff layoffs or a school calendar that is 15 days shorter, she said. “Budget cuts don’t heal.”
García will make a decision on the snow day by noon Wednesday, she said. In the meantime, she is asking parents, teachers and students to weigh in on the proposal by calling 505-467-2024 or filling out a form on the district’s website, www.sfps.info. Officials are also considering an alternate plan to close the district for half a day Thursday or even schedule a rally at the Roundhouse after regular school hours.
The possible day of action speaks to the desperation that some public school and higher education officials are feeling as legislators and the governor struggle once again to balance a state budget in the face of declining oil and gas revenues. The House of Representatives is expected to deliver to the governor a $6.1 billion spending plan, including tax increases, before the legislative session ends Saturday. Lawmakers have warned that without the new taxes, public education could take a hit.
Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for Martinez, called the Santa Fe school district’s proposed snow day a “blatant political stunt” that is “despicable.” He said the Senate is working to “gut” public education funding while pushing for tax increases. Martinez won’t allow either to happen, he said.
So far this school year, Santa Fe Public Schools has shut down for only one day of foul weather. The district has several snow days built into its calendar that would still allow it to meet state requirements for 180 days of instructional time.
School board member Steven Carrillo said Thursday would be like any other snow day, except parents would get nearly a full day’s notice to plan for it rather than three or four hours’ notice. Those working in administrative offices would still be required to work. School employees who don’t work would get paid.
Carrillo first proposed the idea of canceling school for a day of activism during a board study session Monday evening. Incorrect reports that the district was planning to close Wednesday for a Roundhouse rally later began circulating on social media sites, raising concerns that schools would close without enough warning.
School board members Lorraine Price and Maureen Cashmon voiced concerns Monday that if the district called a snow day, parents would have to scramble to find day care for their kids and that some low-income children who do not get regular meals at home would go hungry that day.
Carrillo said the district is working to ensure that students have access to school meals even if classes are canceled, though he provided no details Tuesday about how the plan would be carried out.
Cashmon said she still has concerns, “especially if we take a full day off, that some kids will be home alone. Some kids won’t eat,” she said. “Parents with special-ed kids — what are they going to do? I understand the objective and fully support wanting to try to get some comprise and get a reasonable budget passed for education, but I’m not sure this is the right way to go.”
The snow day would come just before Santa Fe Public Schools’ weeklong spring break starting Monday, March 20.
For years, Carrillo has advocated for a day of action, in which schools would close and all of their employees, students and parents would flood the Capitol to make a point that education matters.
He said his vision for Thursday is that people line the stairs of the Capitol leading to the fourth-floor office of the governor to deliver “a message of hope” in the form of letters and postcards urging her to hold the line when it comes to education.
If the district does close down Thursday, and nobody shows up at the Roundhouse, he said, “Then we get what we deserve.”
Grace Mayer, president of the teachers union NEA-Santa Fe, said based on her conversations with teachers, many of them would support the snow day for activism.
“We don’t have any choice but to take serious action to inform the community” about the threat of education cuts, Mayer said Tuesday.
In the past few years, teachers have sometimes gathered at the Roundhouse on federal holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day to advocate for public education.
But it’s unclear whether a planned, paid day off for teachers and students to rally at the Capitol would any raise ethics issues. Representatives from the Secretary of State’s Office, New Mexico Ethics Watch and Common Cause New Mexico did not respond by press deadline to calls seeking comment on this possibility.
Two Democratic legislators said they support the idea of a school district taking a day off just so students can see how the state Legislature works.
“As long as they make their 180 [classroom] days or whatever, I think it’s a great thing,” said Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque. He said it would be equivalent to a field trip to observe government in action. “We don’t teach civics anymore [in school], so I think it’s fine.”
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said many students spend a day at the Legislature as part of a mentorship program or a field trip, so the notion of students and staff descending on the Roundhouse is normal.
Neither senator had any idea of whether a concocted snow day would cause child care problems or extra expenses for parents. McSorley said the child care center he used for his son had allowances for accepting children at unexpected times.
Wirth, upon initially hearing the news of the potential rally, responded with a one-liner: “Well, we need the snow.”
Almost weekly there is a news article about how New Mexico is at the bottom of another study regarding the wellness of our state — our economy, citizens and particularly our children.
I’ve lived here for 26 years, and in my view, our legislators and executive leadership from both parties have done little to address this state of emergency. I use the phrase “state of emergency” very intentionally. Of course, we have legislators from both parties who have worked to address some of the core challenges we face. The time has come, however, for new thinking; for us to be brave, bold and courageous; to be guided by what we know to be intrinsically the right things to do.
My proposal is quite simple. We need a Contract with New Mexico.
Once upon a time in 1994, then-Minority Whip Newt Gingrich and the Republicans, in order to take over the House, launched the Contract with America. Now I’m no fan of Newt or the era of incivility in Congress that resulted from this effort. But you’ll remember this effort was successful.
At its core, the Contract with New Mexico requires a 100 percent commitment to the philosophy and principle that the future success and prosperity of our state depends foundationally on our being exceptional in two areas — public education and economic development. Any governmental and operational reforms, as well as changes in policy, must have these two elements at their core. Let’s unite around this platform. Let’s pass and enact the following constitutional amendments and policy changes. Let’s unite to put our citizens, our economic growth and the progress of our state first.
• The New Mexico Public Education Funding and Security Act: Restore to 2008 levels (taking into account inflation) the general budget funding for K-12 public education. This act requires that the budget for public education be held harmless from any cuts even if economic conditions require cuts from the general budget.
• The Land Grant Permanent Fund Restoration and Extension Act: Restore to 5.8 percent K-12 public school funding from the Permanent Fund. Create funding for pre-K as well as birth-to-4 education to support our children being “kinder-ready” as they begin elementary school.
• The New Mexico Excellence in Teaching and Professional Development Act: Develop and enact New Mexico Higher Education Department initiatives to significantly and measurably raise the qualifications for teacher certification. Develop programs with greater rigor and relevance at the community college- and bachelor-program levels as well as enhancing statewide master’s and doctoral programs. We must demand more from our teachers and administrators while recognizing it is incumbent on our colleges and universities to provide the tools for them to be excellent.
• The Give and Receive and Give Back Act: Create scholarships and tuition assistance programs (extends to vocational trades as well) for students who are willing to commit to stay in and to serve New Mexico for a determined period of years. These jobs include but are not limited to service in health care, education, public safety, high tech and government.
• New Mexico is Open for Business Act: Develop and enact corporate tax policies to encourage companies from across the U.S. and the world to invest in New Mexico. These policies must not, however, give away the store. Partner with statewide chambers of commerce as well as the Public Education Department and local school boards to create curricula and apprenticeships to ensure that we are teaching for the jobs of the future.
• Into the Future with the New Mexico Alternative Energy Act: New Mexico has the potential to be the alternative energy leader of the United States. Think big. Create clean-energy programs. Support alternative and sustainable energy companies. Partner with our public schools and universities to build educational platforms aligned with this goal. This is guaranteed to create good jobs, well-paying jobs, and to attract more businesses to New Mexico.
• The NewMexiCare Act of 2018: Pass a single-payer health care program that will cover the basic health care needs for all New Mexicans. There is a reason this type of health care delivery is available in most every other developed nation on the planet. It works. New Mexico can pave the way here in the United States just as Saskatchewan led the way in Canada decades ago.
• The Defense of the Public Defender and Constitutional Rights Act: Sufficiently fund our courts, our Law Offices of the Public Defender and our judicial system. The right to due process is a cornerstone of our U.S. and New Mexico constitutions. Every day our justice system in New Mexico commits institutional malpractice as we try to provide defendants with their constitutional rights while not providing the funding to do so. More attorneys, more staff.
• An “A” for Ethics in New Mexico Government Act: Vigilantly support sunshine laws in government, including but not limited to better and more timely access to public information, creating and enforcing more thorough transparency procedures for all branches of government. This must extend to cities, counties and school boards. Codify in statute a State Ethics Commission with the power of subpoena and the ability to carry out and enforce penalties and fines.
• The Prison Reform for the 21st Century Act: Emphasize rehabilitation and education to reduce parolee recidivism. Eliminate over time all private prison operator contracts and bring back state-run facilities. Create incentives for counties to follow this policy as well. This will result in more jobs, better paying jobs, reduced overtime and turnover, greater facility and staff and prisoner safety, and more accountability. We must decrease the number of prisoners, which is contrary to the business plans of private prison companies. The “three strikes” philosophy on crime and punishment doesn’t work, has never worked as a tool to prevent crime and benefits no one except the private prison operators.
• Sign the Paris accord. Admit to New Mexicans that coal is dead and that clean, sustainable and renewable energy is the future. But in so doing, we must have programs to transition these workers to other jobs. And while the fossil fuel industries are part of our future, they are part of our short-term future. Don’t worry about these companies; they know full well what’s around the corner, and you can be sure they’ll adapt because it’s in their best interest to do so.
• Institute a gradual stepped increase for the statewide minimum wage.
And how on earth are we going to pay for all this?
• The Marijuana and Hemp Legalization Act: Legalize marijuana and the industrialization of commercial hemp. Experience indicates this will be a tremendous boon to state revenue. Direct some tax proceeds to curbing drug-related crimes and addiction rehabilitation efforts as well as for drug-related education.
• The Fair and Comprehensive Tax Reform Act of 2019: Progressive, not regressive. No food tax without voter approval. No unreasonable tax breaks for out-of-state corporations. Revise the tax formulas used for the natural resource extraction industries. As for our citizens, some will pay more, some will pay less. All will pay their fair share.
There is a point at which we have to pay for the services we receive or expect to receive. There is a point at which we must invest in a New Mexico that works for all New Mexicans. No one wants to pay more in taxes. But the pain is less when you are getting more for what you pay. Imagine for a moment that you were on the receiving end of NewMexiCare and that our state could invest in infrastructure and public education and economic development — lifting our state from this abyss of mediocrity. This is the Contract with New Mexico. Let’s get started.