And while we're making progress, we are still a long way from the finish line. You see, I agree with President Obama?s Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said “If your students keep being allowed to leave third and fourth grade without being able to read, you?re not doing them any favors.”
Reading enables a child to chase his or her dreams. I want to introduce you to a young boy named Jamal Witter. Jamal is a first grader who wrote a book for a special project through the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce?s reading program. The reason I invited him is because of one key passage that Jamal wrote in that book. Jamal, will you please read it?
(Jamal will read the passage from his book)
Thank you, Jamal. And he's right. Reading paves the way for success.
We must intervene early and do all we can to help struggling students. But I believe if a child is still unable to read by the third grade, after all those interventions, then it?s far more compassionate to have that child repeat that level - to get them up to speed - than to simply pass them onto the next grade and make them four times more likely to become a drop-out.
There have been many compromises made to this bill, including more funding for intervention and increasing parental involvement. It?s been sponsored by Democrats and passed by both chambers. And you heard what the Obama administration said. So let?s stand together and pass this bill.
With last year's “New Mexico Reads to Lead” investment, we hired reading coaches and were able to train nearly 2 thousand educators in methods proven to produce better readers. This year I propose we expand the “New Mexico Reads to Lead” program from $8.5 million to $13.5 million.
Our focus is on struggling schools - on offering a hand-up to those who need help. That?s why I'm proposing $4.7 million in school turnaround programs to close the gap between highperforming schools and schools that are struggling.
As we improve academic performance in New Mexico, we cannot overlook the crucial role that New Mexico?s teachers and other school leaders play in this effort. One of the greatest gifts a teacher can give a child is hope, a belief that the child can do anything and be anyone.
I want to hold up some powerful examples of the very best our state has to offer - educators like those at Anthony Elementary School, a school where nearly all of the students come from low income families and speak English as a second language. These kids face many challenges.
Some don't expect them to succeed, because of these challenges. But the teachers at this school sent them a very different message. They raised expectations and said no more excuses. They believe in these kids. They help these kids believe in themselves.
Because of the dedication of the teachers, principal, and other staff at Anthony Elementary, this school - a school with 100% on free and reduced lunch - is not in the top half of our schools. It's not in the top third. Instead, out of 831 schools, this elementary school is ranked 5th in the entire state.
And we have with us today several teachers, school leaders, and kids from Anthony. Let?s welcome Principal Linda Perez, second grade teacher Orlanda Palomares, sixth grade teacher Leticia Gonzales, and students Clarissa, Bryan, Kayla, Diego, and Alex. Thank you for all that you are achieving.
We need to replicate success like this. That is why I am requesting we dedicate $11.3 million to recruit, retain, and reward our best educators.
I want school districts to know and I want parents to know that I have heard their calls for more math and science teachers in New Mexico schools, particularly in low-income areas. We have an exciting initiative to dedicate $2 million to recruit more math and science teachers, to move scientists and engineers to the classroom and to entice college graduates through loan forgiveness programs. Let's make sure every child in New Mexico has the benefit of great math and science teachers.
Reform in education should have no political party label. It?s not about party or politics. It's about having the courage to challenge the status quo, to put student achievement and nothing else at the very top of our list of concerns.In addition to moving our economy forward and better educating our kids, we must also ensure the safety of our communities.
We need to improve our Amber Alert system so that we can issue an alert whenever a New Mexico child is abducted and police believe the child is in danger, even when the suspect is a family member.
And we must improve our ability to protect children from abusive homes by allowing case workers to conduct emergency background checks through NCIC.
We need to increase penalties for child abuse and expand Brianna's law to cover all children, not just those under the age of 12.
And, of course, I am hopeful that the Legislature will enact the recommendation of the 9/11 commission, the position of nearly every other state in America, and the opinion of a vast majority of New Mexicans that we stop being a magnet for human trafficking, fraud and crime rings. I'm asking the Legislature to finally repeal the law that gives driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
And I know, when it comes to public safety, New Mexicans are as fed up as I am about our problem with repeat drunk drivers. Every time there is another fatal accident caused by someone who has racked up multiple DWIs, New Mexicans ask themselves, why are they still on the road?
I'm asking the legislature to stiffen the penalties for repeat drunk drivers, making DWIs count when sentencing habitual offenders of other crimes. And if a drunk driver doesn't get the message after a first conviction, we should seize their vehicle – their deadly weapon – the second time around. This year, we need to close the loopholes that allow so many DWI offenders to keep their licenses after an arrest. New Mexico?s problem with repeat drunk drivers is serious and it?s time we take a stand.
When we talk about leveling the playing field, one of the best ways to ensure the playing field is not unfairly tilted toward the connected and the powerful is to continue rooting out corruption.
We?ve already made strong progress. State government is now barred from contracting with companies involved in corruption. My appointees are barred from lobbying state government for two years after serving in my administration. And last year, in a bi-partisan manner, we passed a law that allows judges to take the pensions away from convicted corrupt officials.
This year I propose that we continue bolstering New Mexico's anti-corruption laws. If a public official is convicted of corruption, they should be forced to resign immediately. If they have money in their campaign war chests, those funds should not be used as their own personal slush fund. They should be returned to the taxpayer's general fund. And when the state goes to court to recover our taxpayer money from a corrupt public official, taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for the corrupt official's defense.