ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico ranks fifth worst in the nation in how deep it has cut spending on K-12 education on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis since the start of the recession. These cuts deepened the recession, slowed the recovery, and will make New Mexico less prosperous in the future.
A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows that New Mexico cut $874 per student in inflation-adjusted spending between fiscal years 2008 and 2014. Only four states made larger cuts. Although New Mexico increased K-12 spending between FY13 and FY14 by 1.1 percent, it amounted to just $72 per student.
“When it comes to investing in human capital—which is the only way forward for states in terms of economic development—New Mexico has been moving in the wrong direction,” said Veronica C. García, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners with the CBPP.
“To ensure a vibrant economy for New Mexico – for both the short-term and the long-term – New Mexico must invest in its people. New Mexico missed an opportunity this year to restore vital funding for our hard hit K-12 system by providing only token increases in 2013. We need a more balanced approach to economic development rather than simply cutting taxes,” she said.
The report notes that state revenue declined sharply during the recession, but many states—New Mexico among them—relied heavily on spending cuts rather than taking a more balanced approach by raising new revenue.
“State spending cuts actually increased unemployment and prolonged the recession,” Gerry Bradley, senior researcher and policy analyst with NM Voices said. “Poor educational outcomes will hamper New Mexico’s future attempts at attracting new industries as companies will opt for states with better educated workforces.”
“We’ve seen companies having to import workers from other states because they simply can’t find people with the skills they need here in New Mexico,” Garcia said.
“Rather than pursuing a tax cutting strategy and underfunding K-12 education, we need to work harder at developing a world-class workforce through proven strategies such as early childhood education. That investment would have put us on the road to creating a world-class workforce. Those tax cuts are supposed to bring companies and jobs to New Mexico. Instead, companies are bringing in workers from out-of-state. That’s a misguided approach to economic development if ever there was one.”
The CBPP report, “Most States Funding Schools Less than Before the Recession,” is available online at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4011.