Governor recognizes problem — not addressing it
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who some pundits believe would give the Romney ticket a much needed jolt of diversity in this year’s election, announced Thursday that the state is providing 30,000 first-grade students with their own book at the start of next school year.
According to an Associated Press article, Martinez said, “by providing our students with a book of their own, we are encouraging learning at home.” The article goes on to say Martinez believes buying all these books for upcoming first graders will get their parents involved in their children’s education.
The cost of supplying every first grader in the state with a personal book is about $192,000.
Wouldn’t that money be better spent on something else? Martinez’s attempt to encourage young children to become readers is noble, but spending much needed funds on an act that should be essentially the parents’ responsibility is irresponsible. And here in Socorro, our public school system is in dire straights.
As the Chieftain reported earlier this month, the school board approved a deficit budget. We are more than half a million dollars short. Obviously, that $192,000 will not cover that, especially since it’s being spread around the state.
But the objectionable aspect is Martinez’s approach to education. Instead of having funding for teachers, the people who are most responsible for any given child’s education, she thinks spending money on buying a single book, a one-time thing, will improve education in this state.
Encouraging children to read is not something the state can do with just having a book on each child’s desk the first day of school. A love of reading has to be nurtured over many years. One book can not do this — teachers and parents can do this.
In Socorro, 90 percent of education funds are tied up in personnel. If it weren’t for so many retirements this past year, the school board would have been forced to lay off teachers. This would have increased class size, and, as any teacher will tell you, it’s hard to teach when you have too many kids.
We need to fund teaching positions, not novel and misguided attempts to “get parents involved.” Parents should already be involved — and, if they’re not, they need to get on the ball.
They should be the ones buying books (notice, plural), not the state. Parents and teachers working together to increase a love of reading and life-long learning is what is best for school-age children. Spending money on a one-time expense that should go to teachers only recognizes a problem instead of addressing it is not.