Back to School
It's August and school is just around the corner. In our house, that means the annual scavenger hunt for glue sticks, washable markers, number 2 pencils, blunt Fiskars scissors and so forth. (Why do they have to be Fiskars, anyway?) This year, we didn't wait for the last weekend to load up the trunk, but it was still busy at Wal-Mart and Staples.
This time of year always brings mixed emotions. There's something full of promise about a new pencil box and 200 sheets of blank wide rule loose leaf paper. But it is also an annual reminder that time is passing, and that these are the good old days with my children.
I met a seventh grade science teacher in the line at Wal-Mart when we were checking out. Like thousands of New Mexico teachers, she is looking forward to the first day of the school year. She had participated in a Math and Science Teacher Training Academy at UNM for which I had gotten federal funding. I'm grateful for teachers like her and thousands of others sparking a love of learning among our children. They deserve our respect and support-in addition to our bottles of soft soap and boxes of tissues.
Federal funding for public schools in New Mexico has nearly doubled since 1998. New Mexico received $532 million for education in 2004, a boost of more than $244 million since 1998. Last year, when the House version of the education spending bill did not do enough for education, I was one of a handful of Republicans that voted against the bill and worked to get it fixed in negotiations with the Senate. It ultimately was fixed.
But money alone won't make sure that every child gets a good education. Schools need flexibility to use the money where it is needed most. I want the decisions about how to spend the money made by someone who knows your child's name. The No Child Left Behind Act has given schools unprecedented flexibility with federal funds.
But funding and flexibility aren't enough. We need to measure results. If we never ask whether we are narrowing the achievement gap between rich and poor, or between Anglo and minority, then the system will never adjust its use of resources to make sure every child gets the education they need to give wings to their dreams.
I will continue to support teacher training, tax credits for teachers, reading programs, and Head Start. I will keep fighting to get art and music back in our schools so that every child has art and music every week in school.
But the success of our schools is also up to us, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Parents are a child's first and most important teachers. We need to make sure they go to school, make sure the homework gets done, turn off the TV and read - especially read.
Parents tell children that a good education is a ticket to a dream, whatever that dream may be. That's a lot harder than just buying the paper towels and colored pencils, and a lot more important.