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Archive for January 3rd, 2023

There are two important things to understand about K-12 education.

  1. There is national evidence and international evidence that spending more money on government schools does not produce good results.
  2. There is national evidence and international evidence that school choice produces better educational outcomes for families and society.

With today’s column, let’s add more evidence to the discussion.

Paul Gessing, the President of the Rio Grande Institute, wrote about New Mexico’s comparative educational performance in an article for National Review.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is known as “the Nation’s Report Card.” Sadly, the most recent “report card” represented failure for many states, not the least of which is my home state of New Mexico, which came in dead-last in all categories studied: fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and math. Sadly, especially for New Mexico kids, the additional tax dollars being spent by the state’s education system have not moved the needle. If anything, the needle has moved in the wrong direction. Let’s compare New Mexico with lower-spending, reform-minded states, such as Arizona… Arizona neighbors New Mexico and has a similar demographic profile, including large Native American communities and a large Hispanic population. …We’ll use fourth-grade reading scores to make the comparison. …In 2005, New Mexico…was tied with Arizona, with a score of 207. By 2022, Arizona outperformed New Mexico 215 to 202.

Here are the numbers on comparative spending.

As you can see, Arizona is getting better results with frugality while New Mexico is getting worse results with profligacy.

…in FY 2022…Arizona spent $10,639…the…fifth-lowest-spending state…in the nation. …New Mexico, on the other hand, has increased education spending over the past 15 years or so. …Today, New Mexico ranks 19th among states at, considering its dismal educational record, an astonishing $15,338 per student.

But it’s not the frugality or profligacy that matters.

What seems to make the difference is whether the state has some form of school choice.

What happened? …Arizona has had a charter-school law since the mid 1990s and…is ranked as the second-best charter law in the nation… A system of tax credits to be used for private school choice has been in place and growing since 1997, and various specialty programs as well as narrowly targeted vouchers have also made Arizona a school-choice leader. That’s even before the program of universal education savings accounts approved in early 2022 fully takes effect.

Not only is Arizona out-performing New Mexico today, but the gap will probably grow.

Arizona is ranked #1 for school choice while New Mexico is buried in the middle of the pack at #26. And, as Paul noted, there’s a new statewide choice system that will give every family the ability to choose – and that means pressure on both private and government schools to produce better outcomes.

It will be interesting to see if Arizona (especially with its new choice law)…can keep or accelerate the momentum. Sadly, New Mexico is one poorly performing state that has not gotten serious… The children in my state have suffered despite a large increase in government education spending. Better results are possible without breaking the bank.

It’s unfortunate that New Mexico politicians are siding with teacher unions rather than families.

The evidence is very strong that school choice is a win-win for both taxpayers and students.

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