By Ryan Lengerich
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson campaigned in favor of the two amendments posted on the Sept. 23 special election ballot when he addressed Tucumcari Elementary School Tuesday.
Calling himself a “champion of rural areas,” the governor gave a 20-minute speech to a floor full of wide-eyed students and about 40 parents, school officials and citizens at the school’s cafeteria.
Richardson called the forthcoming election “the most important vote that we have had,” and advocated the need to vote yes on the two amendments.
“It’s about education, it’s about you, it’s about your future,” he said staring at the students. “It is about New Mexico investing in education for you kids.”
The Sept. 23 special election will address two educational amendments. Passing Constitutional Amendment One would create a secretary of education to be appointed by the governor. The secretary would serve as head of State Public Education Commission. The second amendment will provide a temporary boost in education fund distribution from 4.7 percent to 5.8 percent.
Richardson complemented the leadership and teachers at the Quay County schools but said the rest of the state ranks low. He said students in rural areas are forgotten at the state level.
“Here is the problem, the (New Mexico) State Department of Education in Santa Fe is a bureaucracy,” he said. “Too often they think of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the biggest cities, and forget the rural areas.
I want New Mexico rural areas and rural school boards to have direct access to the governor and the secretary of education.”
The governor said he has bipartisan support from fellow Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman as well as Republican Sen. Pete Domenici. He said much of the opposition to the amendments comes from the voter apathy during a special election.
Richardson outlined several problems with the current education system. He said squabbling between the state education board and the department of education limits progress. And, Richardson said, he is not even involved.
“Just think the budget in New Mexico, 50 percent of it is in education and the governor has no say on that 50 percent of the budget,” he said. “There is no one sitting around the table in a cabinet meeting representing education.”
Passing amendment one will bring accountability for educational decisions and the second amendment will increase educational investments will help state schools “get better and get stronger,” he said.
At the speeches conclusion he received resounding approval when he asked the children whether they supported the two amendments. Knowing the children’s support is only indirectly affects the Richardson asked them to do one thing.
“Go home and talk to your parents about amendment one and amendment Two.”