Posts Tagged ‘Accountability’

Corruption is Only One of the Problems

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Everyone in New Mexico knows that under the 70+ year Democratic rule of our state corruption has flourished liked bacteria in a petri dish. But, what is less understood is that the total disregard for the rule of law, especially within the ranks of the elected and appointed leaders of the current administration, is not simply limited to padding wallets and stealing from taxpayers to fatten campaign funds. In an attempt to curry favor with one political voting block or another, the Administration has shown the most cavalier attitude toward laws and regulations – changing and discarding them on a whim with a complete disregard to the constitutional process.

We’ve seen it time and time again. Appointees have held midnight meetings to circumvent the legislature and “rewrite laws” as they see fit. We’ve seen others take illegal administrative liberties to steal your water from right under your land. There has been little to no fiscal accountability for state agency after state agency for years. Of course, for the majority of New Mexicans these might seem like actions that “don’t really directly impact me and my family.”

Well, let’s see if we can bring this down to the simplest terms. If lying, cheating and stealing aren’t enough to get your blood boiling, then maybe the raping of children will put you over the edge:

Because CYFD acted as if this regulation did not exist, CYFD failed to notify ICE and released Juan Gonzalez when he was charged with molesting a 3-year-old girl and raping a 6-year-old boy in 2005 when he was found not competent to stand trial. He walked.

Then, in 2008 Gonzalez was arrested again for (allegedly) raping a 4-year-old.

This was preventable.  In fact, the rules and laws were on the books to prevent this from happening. But, the current administration opted to make their own rules. They assumed, as they have all along, that they are above the law:

The Richardson administration did not want to enforce the regulation, for whatever reason, so, rather than engage in the legal process to change the law, they just substituted their own view of what they wanted the law to be.

And now, because of the administration’s arrogance and chutzpah, another innocent child, a 6-year-old little girl playing at a local gym has her life shattered by the act of a (suspected) criminal that could have been prevented.

It’s time the voter’s sent a clear message that they’ve had enough. Regardless of your political affiliation, make sure you vote in the upcoming primaries and encourage your neighbors to do the same. It’s time to send the lawless and self-interested packing and put people in office that will put public service above self-interests.

About Time Someone Started Paying Attention

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The budget situation in New Mexico gets bleaker by the minute:

Legislators expect the current revenue shortfall to grow – perhaps to $550 million or more – because of continued weakening of tax collections during the recession.

To prepare for that possibility, lawmakers are pushing for larger spending cuts than Richardson has proposed in his plan to balance the budget.

“We’re in deep, deep, deep trouble, and there absolutely is not going to be an easy answer,” Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat and vice chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, told his colleagues Monday as they reviewed options for balancing the budget.

Lawmakers see spending cuts as a permanent fix to the state’s budget woes. Reducing the budgets of agencies and programs realigns state expenditures more closely with projected revenues in coming years.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for our economic woes, look no further than the spending spree the Governor and his administration took us on during his years at the helm. A $100 million here, $400 million there, and next thing you know we’ve got big problems. Why this is coming as a surprise to anyone is beyond me.

Now consider that in addition to spending like there’s no tomorrow, Governor Richardson and his appointees have thrown caution to the wind and disregarded any and all safeguards intended to protect taxpayers from fraud and abuse:

Today State Auditor Hector Balderas released a report saying nearly 90 state agencies have failed to submit compliance audits as required by law. The total amount of dollars that hasn’t been audited according to a list I received is $1,177,233,118.00.

That’s right, over $1 Billion (that’s Billion with a “B”) spent without an audit. In light of the number of criminal indictments that have occurred in recent years when audits have been conducted, this is a very unsettling fact.

And, you wonder how we got into this mess?

Another Year of Dismal Education Results

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The test scores are in and once again the vast majority of New Mexico schools are failing to make the grade. In fact, in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition more schools failed this year than last year:

Schools repeatedly failing to meet adequate yearly progress could face sanctions, including restructuring. Results released Monday are preliminary and school districts have several weeks to appeal their designations.

The results show that for the 2008-09 school year:

  • 69.3 percent of New Mexico’s schools were labeled as failing to meet AYP, up from 67.7 percent the previous year.
  • 124 out of 147 middle schools failed to make AYP, meaning a failure rate of 84.4 percent.
  • Of the state’s 157 high schools, 129, or 82.2 percent, failed to make AYP.
  • The results are based on standardized tests taken by about 162,000 students in third through eighth grades and in 11th grade.
  • Schools are judged in 37 categories, including whether English language learners, students with disabilities and different ethnic groups are meeting standards. If a school misses even one of the 37 standards, it is labeled as failing to meet AYP.

Now in all fairness, when it comes to numbers, there are many different ways to look at them (e.g. investment houses which report record earnings in a declining economy after taking taxpayer dollars to avoid failure and the “paying it back”, but I digress.). Another part of this annual tradition involves educator Scot Key’s post after post after post after post analysis of the numbers. Expect more posts Scot – someone for whom I sincerely have the utmost respect even if he is to the left of the left – on the topic.

However, I’m a simpler kind of guy, and I prefer executive level summaries. I also prefer to take numbers and reports at face value intertiwned with a little old-fashioned common sense. The way I see it no matter how the folks in charge try to spin it, our education system in New Mexico is failing our students at an alarming rate:

Roughly half the students who should have graduated with the class of 2008 failed to do so, prompting a call to action by the state’s education secretary.

“It is alarming,” Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said during a news conference Monday at which the state unveiled its four-year graduation rate, along with results of the latest round of tests required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

New Mexico’s cohort graduation rate for the class of 2008 is 54 percent compared to the national average of 70 percent, according to the Public Education Department.

The cohort rate tracked individual students from the ninth grade through the summer after their senior year in 2008 to show how many graduated.

For Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, the 2008 graduation rate was 46.2 percent, according to the state report.

Of course, we can all take comfort in the fact that the recipient of this year’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award has a plan:

Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made education reform a priority during his 6 1/2 years in office, plans to unveil another batch of reforms as early as this week.

“We will push very hard so that the main legislative agenda item in January and in my remainder of the term will be education, to finish what I believe is a good start and good progress,” Richardson told the Journal last week. “We recognize that we still have a ways to go.”

Hmm, let’s see if we can follow the logic here. The Governor has made education reform a priority for 6 1/2 years, and each year we fail to make any progress. Heck, we actually lose ground year after year. I don’t know about you, but as the parent of school age children, I don’t think I have the stomach for any more of Governor Richardson’s style reforms.

Democrats to Blame

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Going into last year’s legislative session all anyone could talk about was the budget shortfall. The spending party that has been the cornerstone of the Richardson Administration was over – sort of. What do I mean?

Well, during the 2009 legislative session the people in charge (read: Democrats) didn’t really slice the budget the way it required in light of decrease oil and gas revenue and declining tax revenue. Instead, they just kind of froze spending – again, sort of.

Consider that the vast majority of New Mexicans are cutting our annual spending, and you’d think that state government would try and do the same. But no, they want to get creative:

State government spending has grown by about 40 percent during the past six years. Smith and other lawmakers might focus on alternatives to new revenues to pay for the state’s nearly $5.5 billion annual budget, such as shifting money from stalled infrastructure projects, shortening the government’s workweek or furloughing state employees, should a special legislative session be called this fall by Gov. Bill Richardson to address budget problems.

Here’s an idea. Instead of looking at sources of new revenue (read: taxing struggling families) or looking at creative ways to shuffle funds and pretend we’re not in a zero sum game, how about you just cut all the recently added programs and return them back to 2002 levels?

Think about it. We significantly increased our investment in education and have seen continued declines in student performance. We’ve increased our investment in economic development and seen increased job losses. We’ve funded pet projects like spaceports and trains to benefit a select few without any significant benefit for the majority of the population.

When are we going to finally acknowledge that the government is really good at making grand promises, but comes up awfully short on delivering on results? The spend, spend, spend experiment of the Richardson Administration and a rubber stamp legislature has been a horrible failure. But, here’s the absurdity of New Mexico politics:

If taxes were to be raised, Democrats, who control the executive branch and both houses of the Legislature, could face the lion’s share of the blame, Sanderoff said.

Really? The Democrats “could face the lion’s share of the blame.” You think? Only in New Mexico could those in charge of everything only potentially face the blame. How about we stop the spin here? The Democrats should face the lion’s share of the blame.

  • They should be held accountable for out of control spending with nothing to show for it.
  • They should be held accountable for every and any tax increase .
  • They should be held accountable for an education system that costs more and more and delivers less and less.
  • They should be held accountable for the institutionalization of corruption.

Unless we start holding them accountable, we will go from bad to worse.

More Thoughts on Education

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Yesterday, I posted on the absurdity of the education industry suing the state because they think they are being shortchanged when it comes to funding. Today there is an interesting article about APS inability to track something as controlled as the number of standardized tests taken in a given classroom:

Data showing Albuquerque Public Schools elementary proficiency rates by classroom apparently miscounted the number of students in some classrooms.

Several teachers reported to the Journal that the number of exams that APS reported for their classrooms was inaccurate. The data, which was prepared by APS, was posted on the Journal’s Web site in late February.

Fourth-grade teacher Cathy Jordan said she and her principal sat down and tried to figure out how the district’s numbers were different from her own.

“I had 21 students last year, and all the students took both the reading and math tests,” wrote Jordan, a teacher at SY Jackson Elementary. “So, I should have 42 tests or 21 tests. How could there only be 32?”

The APS results show the number of math and reading tests, according to the district, so 42 tests in most cases reflects 21 students.

A spokesman for APS said in some cases, tests were considered “spoiled” and not counted, so it looked like there were fewer students who completed the test than were in the class.

In other cases, students’ tests may have been mistakenly assigned to the wrong classrooms in the school.

The troubling part here is that those accountable for accountability are not able to give a straight answer. Overall, our school systems are a mess. That is not to say there aren’t some great public schools. There are. Nor, is it intended to mean that all teachers are bad. The VAST majority are very good. But, the system is broken. It has grown and evolved in a way that no longer makes sense.

Essentially, the education industry is asking for a larger bailout every year to fix problems that cannot be fixed by money alone. And, this is not a New Mexico only problem. This is a national crisis that threatens our future ability to compete globally, and the worst part of all of this is that this inequity impacts those among us with the least resources the most. Consider what is going on in D.C. with regard to the successful voucher program:

The students, almost all of them black and Hispanic, patched together the voucher money with scholarships, other grants and parents willing to make sacrifices to pay their tuition.

What happened, according to a Department of Education study, is that after three years the voucher students scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. schools. In addition, students who came into the D.C. voucher program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading after three years in private schools.

It is really upsetting to see that the Heritage Foundation has discoverd that 38 percent of the members of Congress made the choice to put their children in private schools. Of course, Secretary Duncan has said he decided not to live in Washington, D.C. because he did not want his children to go to public schools there. And President Obama, who has no choice but to live in the White House, does not send his two daughters to D.C. public schools, either. They attend a private school, Sidwell Friends, along with two students who got there because of the voucher program.

This reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not bode well for arguments to come about standards in the effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. It does not speak well of the promise of President Obama to be the “Education President,’ who once seemed primed to stand up for all children who want to learn and especially minority children.

My kids are in APS schools, but they have never gone to their “designated” school. We’ve placed them in schools that we felt would best match their educational needs. When those needs have changed, we’ve moved them to other schools. We’ve been advocates on behalf of our children. I spent ten years in education, so I know how to get the most out of the system. But, others are not as fortunate, and the one size fits all approach just doesn’t work – no matter how much money we throw at it.

Please, Define Accountability

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

I’m sure it was just an oversight, but I wasn’t invited to Governor Richardson’s inaugural festivities. Instead, I just had to read the speech online.

And what a speech it was. This highlighted portion from the Governor’s press release is by far my favorite:

“Four years ago today, we demonstrated our commitment to education with a 6% increase in teacher salaries – tied to accountability measures,” said Governor Richardson. “Those increases took us from 48th to 39th in the nation in teacher pay, dramatically boosted teacher quality, and improved education in the classroom. Today, I propose that we renew our commitment to education in an unprecedented way – let’s raise teacher’s salaries by 7.4 percent, tie them to accountability, and move to 27th in the nation.”

So, that first raise was tied to accountability. Based on these results, who would’ve thunk it? I can’t wait to see what kind of results another 7.4 percent across the board will bring us.