ALBUQUERQUE—The best way for states to foster a productive economy is to invest in a well-educated workforce, according to a new paper published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI.)
Unfortunately, New Mexico ranks low in both educational attainment and in median wages.
The report, “A Well Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity,” shows that the states with the highest wages and most productive economies are the states with the best-educated workforces.
The report concludes that investment in education—which is a state’s primary economic development tool—will build a strong foundation for shared prosperity. This is because increased investment in education improves the productivity of the state’s workers, and increased productivity allows wages to rise. States can increase the educational attainment of their population by working to slow the growth of college tuition, increasing financial aid, investing in quality K-12 education, and offering preschool programs.
“Making education a priority—especially for the youngest and most at-risk children—is good for states in many, many ways,” said Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children Veronica C. García. “Highly educated workers not only have higher incomes and thus pay more in taxes and rely less on state assistance, but their children are much more likely to do better in school. That means bringing forth a whole generation of kids who are less likely to need remedial programs, come in contact with the criminal justice system, and have children when they are still teens. That’s because education is the best way to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”
Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, New Mexico made deep cuts to higher education spending. In fact, almost one-third of all general fund spending cuts were to higher education. The K-12 school system also saw inflation adjusted, per-pupil spending cuts, which resulted in fewer teachers and more crowded classrooms.
“When we finally started seeing new revenue [for fiscal year 2014], the state is giving much of it away in tax cuts to profitable corporations already doing business here,” said Gerry Bradley, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst with NM Voices for Children.
The EPI report, which was produced for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), is available here.