From the Rio Rancho Observer – Feb. 28, 2021
State Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, professes grave concern about the quality of New Mexico’s educational system and can’t wait for schools to open for in-person learning. Yet he recently introduced legislation that would force the public to pick up the tab for religious school education at the expense of our public schools.
According to last week’s Observer, Sen. Brandt recently introduced legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would eliminate from the state constitution the prohibition against using state educational funds to support religious schools.
With New Mexico lagging behind most other states in educational achievement, and low-income students and students of color particularly underserved, robbing public education of desperately needed funds is indefensible.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposed funding religious education in Virginia, arguing that taxpayers should not be required to fund religious beliefs they do not share. They argued that religious liberty is best preserved by keeping church and state separate.
Rather than diverting funds from public education, a better focus would be to support House Joint Resolution 1. This legislation would require the Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide additional yearly distributions of 1 percent to nonsectarian early childhood educational services.
These services would deliver better outcomes for children when they move to kindergarten and beyond. HJR 1 recently passed the House on a vote of 44 to 23.
If Sen. Brandt truly wants to improve our state’s educational outcomes, he will vote for HJR 1.