Governor talks education in Wednesday forum

By Tony Parra

Gov. Bill Richardson said he’s traveling through New Mexico in search of support for education reform and his search brought him to Portales on Wednesday.
Richardson spoke to more than 150 people in Buchanan Hall on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University campus about his ideas for the 2005 legislation. He said the reform should help ENMU and the campus.
“I think it will be good for Eastern,” Richardson said. “You don’t do very well compared to UNM (University of New Mexico) and NMSU (New Mexico State University) when it comes to resources for buildings. The last thing I want is a power-play in Santa Fe that makes it worst.”
In regards to infrastructure, a new broadcast building is being built on the campus of ENMU with the help of general obligation bonds from a previous election and ENMU officials are wanting a new science building with the help of General Obligation Bond B. Voters will have a chance to vote for or against GO Bond B on Nov. 2.
“Most money goes to the Rio Grande Corridor (NMSU and UNM),” Gamble said. “You generally don’t have the support it takes to get everything you need.”
Richardson spoke of several education reform ideas he will be proposing to legislature, one of them being changes to the lottery scholarship requirements. He said a requirement is high school graduates must attend college three months after their graduation.
According to Richardson, he wants to build a $250 million trust fund and award universities for graduation rates and not only for enrollment numbers.
“I want Sen. (Stuart) Ingle to lead the bill,” Richardson said. “He’s very good at looking at numbers and fiscal responsibility. We want to do it with the interest earned from lottery surplus. We reward universities for the enrollment numbers and not the graduation rates. You see these big numbers in September then they drop off in October.”
He wants education reform to help college students who are transferring from one university to another to make sure their credit hours count in the transfer.
“We don’t have a problem with credit hours transferring over,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “We don’t have problems accepting credit hours. I’m not sure how it works for other (New Mexico) schools accepting students.”
Richardson wants to extend the waiting period to allow highs school students to travel before going to college or to those who failed the first semester and want to go back the second semester.
ENMU senior Giovanna Scarafiotti asked about physical education in the school systems and asked why it was taken out. Scarfiotti, who is majoring in Physical Education and Athletic Training, said studies have shown physical education has helped students’ grades.
Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia responded that physical education is being put back into the high school system and Garcia and Richardson want to physical education to be put back into elementary schools.
Richardson also discussed a claim that New Mexico is the dumbest state in the United States, according to a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of hundreds of public school systems in the 50 states. The survey ranked Massachusetts as the smartest for the second year in a row and New Mexico as the dumbest for the third year in a row.
“They ranked us as the dumbest state in the United States,” Richardson said. “But their methods have been discredited. We’re not doing good, though. Don’t think we’re in the top ten because we’re not.”
He said he also wanted to decrease the suicide rate in New Mexico also. Richardson said the suicide rate is the third highest in the United States. He also said Luna County had the highest suicide rate and Los Alamos has the second highest suicide rate.
Another change he wants to make is to allow those who want to attend college years after their high school graduation to qualify for the lottery scholarship.
Gamble said Richardson held a forum at New Mexico Highlands University earlier on Wednesday and was leaving to Hobbs to conduct a forum on Wednesday night.