Sunday, June 4, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Maybe It's Time to Talk to Students About Education


Submitted by Symmes Cannon, New Mexico college student

I appreciate the opportunity The Paper. gives to community members to express their opinion on important issues. I am respectfully submitting public commentary about Constitutional Amendment 1, which will be on the November General Election ballot. The text is below:

When education is discussed in New Mexico, it is often framed in a negative light. Adults discuss how to increase graduation rates, engagement, and test scores while trimming budgets. How many talk to students? Everyone probably assumes that as high schoolers, we don’t understand how school budgets affect us. We do. We are in the buildings and we are impacted. We need long-term, stable funding for our schools. As a high school senior, I am talking to the adults in my life about voting for the Constitutional Amendment 1 which will increase funding for K-12 programs statewide.

I know firsthand the pressure to succeed, graduate and get accepted into college. When budgets are cut, so are our opportunities. My freshman year of high school, I took an advanced science class fearing it may be cut in the future. A similar class was cut at Albuquerque High School a couple of years before. Just two years after I took the class, it was eliminated in budget cuts. I noticed a pattern.

I was one of the few beneficiaries of Albuquerque High’s four years of advanced chemistry -a period of time interspersed with constant battles to retain funding for programs filled to capacity. Art and music programs, from elementary to high school, have also faced a multitude of program cuts and material shortages. Some schools have to rotate art and music every other year. Numerous studies indicate the power of music and art classes in elevating student self esteem and wellbeing, which directly impact academic performance. As a participant in Albuquerque High’s orchestra, I’ve forged deep friendships and developed valuable skills. But I’ve also seen the way in which funding is chipped away, and the damage that a lack of investment can have on student and teacher morale and the programs themselves. If these programs are cut in New Mexico’s largest school district, how are smaller school districts faring?

This November, New Mexican voters will have the opportunity to approve Constitutional Amendment 1 on the back of the ballot, which would allow for the expansion of early childhood education funding by $150 million, and public education by $100 million, from the $25 billion of the Land Grant Permanent Education Fund. This statewide investment, across ages, is an investment into the future: it would allow students to get the education and experiences they deserve, from early childhood onward. As a state that struggles on education metrics, our goals should be to allow students to thrive and make the most of all that a public education can offer. A vote for this measure is a vote for expanding opportunities for all New Mexican youth - a shift from shutting doors to opening them.


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