(Previously published, 2017)
Adelante Now is an education foundation. For over a decade we concentrated our educational efforts on funding tutoring in a few Rio Grande valley public schools. The tutoring was directed at elementary school children who were not reading at grade level or who were not grasping the elements of math. The tutoring program was rewarding to most of the tutored children — and to us. Yet, each year we were reminded that there are many more fundamental problems with New Mexico’s education system than our tutoring program was capable of attacking.
One cannot long contemplate education problems in the state without realizing that many of those problems are connected to family problems. Struggling or broken families often do not provide the cover and guidance which allow children to take real advantage of educational opportunities.
Digging deeper, it is difficult for a mom and a dad to keep their family together, or not to struggle, if good jobs are unavailable to support a family. Further, there are other connections between jobs and education. For instance, work itself is educational. A young person who has the discipline and capacity to maintain a job (if one is available) is likely on his or her way to a successful career. Additionally, even if the state were able to provide a good education for most of its children, many of those well-educated New Mexico kids would leave the state in search of good jobs if those jobs are not available here after graduation.
Not only does the lack of job creation affect education in the state, the quality of education often affects the state’s capacity to create jobs. It is a circular matter! For instance, a company needing a well educated workforce is less likely to choose to locate in a state whose education system produces marginally educated students. Or, a company which already is established in a state, but which, in order to grow, must be able to hire well-educated additional employees, is not likely to remain in a state which has a paucity of such available employees.
Education problems, family problems and job problems often are related. Thus, we think that the state must take a holistic approach if it is going to have a real chance of solving its major problems.
Our goal is action! We recognize that many entities have studied New Mexico’s problems, and we applaud them. Yet, little seems to happen. In spite of New Mexico’s wonderful cultural diversity, its great natural resources and its pleasant climate, our state too often dawdles along in mediocrity. Let’s change that!
In December 2013 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “New Mexico Looks to Diversify Employer Mix.” The article contained a graph which was startling. It was titled, “Left Behind.” We had the WSJ graph updated. As you see, New Mexico is the only state among the surrounding states where, through December 2014, the jobs lost in the “great recession” of 2008-2010 had not been recaptured. Was 2015 better? “No.” For reasons we later will explain, New Mexico likely has fallen further behind since December 2014.
One cannot examine the graph without realizing that New Mexico has a significant “job creation” problem. What is the problem? Or better, what are the problems which inhibit job creation here compared to the job creation provided within the surrounding states? We want to find out, and with your help we hope to suggest a path forward which will address both our job creation problem and our education problem.
We believe that all sides have worthwhile contributions to make to this effort. We know there are many elements to the state’s problems, and we invite your thoughts and suggestions.