Thursday, August 9, 2007

Governor Bill Richardson

Greetings everyone. I’m going to be blogging on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s education agenda as he seeks the democratic presidential nomination.

This first entry is just introductory to get us acquainted with Richardson and his state. Future blogs will provide more details of his education policies and positions.

The one caveat is his stand on No Child Left Behind. Governor Richardson opposes it. "I would scrap it, it doesn’t work," he told a cheering audience at the CNN/YouTube debate (7/23/07) among Democratic presidential candidates. "It is not just an unfunded mandate but the one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. It doesn’t emphasize teacher training, it doesn’t emphasize disabled kids, English learning kids don’t get help. The worst thing it does is it takes districts and schools that are not doing well, takes their funds away, penalizes them. If a school is not doing well, we help that school."

First, a bit about the New Mexico Governor. He was born in November 1947 and has quite an impressive resume (with the exception of some confusion regarding his being drafted or merely scouted by the Kansas City A’s ball team as a young man). Voters in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District sent him to Congress in 1983. He served seven terms and sat on the Interior Committee and the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Richardson also chaired the Hispanic Caucus (his mother is Mexican and Bill lived in Mexico City until high school). Former President Clinton appointed him as United States Ambassador to the UN in 1997. In 1998, Clinton tapped him to succeed Federico Peña as US Energy Secretary (Richardson’s Congressional district included Los Alamos National Lab). He ran for Governor of New Mexico in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006.

Now, here are a couple of fun facts about the man from which you can draw your own conclusions. He holds the Guinness Book of world records for the most handshakes in an eight hour period. This feat took place in 2002, in Albuquerque and involved 13,392 hands. Richardson has been a strong believer in this sort of grass roots, person-to-person campaigning since entering political life. The Governor, by the way, eschews hand sanitizers during these campaign events, something you may want to keep in mind when interviewing him since as many as 3,000 of those hands belonged to people didn’t wash after using the restroom according to the American Society for Microbiology.

Okay, now for some facts about the state population. New Mexico is a bit shy of 2 million residents, placing it 36th out the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of about 328,000 K-12 students, nearly 55 percent are Hispanic, 30 percent are white, and 11 percent are Native American; far above the national average of about one percent. More than half of all students are on free or reduced lunch.

State schools fared well in the most recent "Quality Counts" report by Education Week. New Mexico received an A in standards and accountability, the national average was "B-"; it earned a "B" in efforts to improve teacher quality, the nationwide average was "C+"; and it was one of the top states in resource equity with a "B+". It’s only below average grade was for school climate, where the state earned a "C". According to Ed Week, New Mexico "does not have laws in place to address school harassment or to enforce specific penalties for school violence."

New Mexico’s record in higher education is sketchier. The non-profit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave the state an "F" for affordability and preparation. And while the state received an "A" in participation, actual graduation rates earned it a grade of "D".

That’s it for this entry. Feel free to reach me at for now. I’m heading to UC Berkeley for a one-year fellowship, but will still be checking my KQED email.
--Kathy Baron

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