Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bill’s ABCs

A version of this article appeared in this week's Santa Fe Reporter.

By David Alire Garcia

As he struggles to claw his way up from a distant fourth place among likely Iowa caucus-goers, Gov. Bill Richardson has a new TV ad airing in the Hawkeye state. It aims to teach viewers some basic math: Richardson + the Oval Office = pure educational bliss.

The ad rehashes some of the same footage from Richardson ads that ran in New Mexico during the guv’s ’06 re-election romp, while an authority-soaked male voice-over reviews the guv’s ’08 education promises: Scrap the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act; set a national minimum teacher wage; universal pre-K and new math and science academies across the country.

Entitled “Bold Plan,” the ad ends with this line: “See what he did for New Mexico schools. He can do that for America.”

A Richardson-affiliated Web site dedicated to the guv’s record on education——ticks off all the noteworthy things he’s done for the state’s schools. The bullet points run the gamut from boosting teacher salaries to increasing accountability to removing junk food from school campuses.

A campaign statement accompanying the release of the ad notes that “New Mexico ranked second in the country in education reform by the Fordham Foundation.”

A trip to the Thomas B Fordham Foundation Web site confirms the 2nd place ranking on reform, but the Richardson campaign left out a couple of other findings. The same study concludes that the state ranks 32nd for student achievement and has made only “minimal progress” for poor and minority students.

Scott Darnell, communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, piles on predictably—but accurately—with the following additions: Only 58 percent of the state’s public schools made adequate yearly progress under NCLB, and Richardson’s own Public Education Department reports a decline in the number of schools that met student academic performance standards from 2005 to 2006.

“If Richardson plans to do for the nation what he has done for education in New Mexico, we can expect nothing more than more of the same,” Darnell says. “The New Mexico education system should not be held up as the ideal standard.”

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