'Only Bill Richardson Has a Bold Plan for Our Schools'
That's the opening line of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's new television ad that's running in Iowa. I question the "only" and the "bold" part of his claim.
His "bold plan," if elected president: getting rid of the No Child Left Behind Act, expanding prekindergarten, paying teachers more, and expanding math and science academies. Hardly original ideas, since most of those proposals are shared by every other Democratic candidate in the race. Webster's dictionary defines bold as "readiness to take risks, daring, fearless," and although he goes a step further than other candidates by calling for an all-out elimination of NCLB, I'd still be hesitant to call his plan bold since proposing to expand pre-K and boost teacher salaries are safe bets for a Democratic presidential candidate these days.
Still, I kept watching his ad, which further directs viewers to see what he "did" for New Mexico schools by going to www.risingschools.com.
The site details a list of education accomplishments in New Mexico, and mentions that Education Week's Quality Counts gave his state an A for assessments and accountability. I thought this merited some fact-checking.
Richardson is right, we did give New Mexico an A in 2006, and gave the state other high marks for improving teacher quality and allocating resources equitably.
However, Richardson understandably left out an important fact: More recently, in the 2007 Quality Counts, New Mexico ranked dead last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for providing children with chances for success from cradle to career.
There is a bright side to this dismal ranking for Gov. Richardson. Christopher Swanson, the director of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which produced the report, told me that New Mexico officials didn't shrink away from the story—that they instead used it to bring more attention to the importance of education and funding in their state.
Update: Check out this on-point cartoon, which appeared in the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate this year shortly after our Quality Counts report debuted. Thanks to the cartoonist, Frank Mulhearn, for his permission to reprint this here.