Lawmakers propose to spend $350,000 on nonessentials
New Mexico's high school graduation rate was an anemic 63 percent in 2011.
That statistic alone guarantees that the Legislature in 2013 will again debate -- but perhaps not decide -- how to improve schools.
The 89 school districts and the state's charter schools also should be focused on specifics to reduce dropout rates, improve literacy and create generations of high achievers.
But in these lean and desperate times, certain state legislators propose to spend $350,000 on nonessential education projects.
One, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, right, would allocate $300,000 to Eastern New Mexico University to manage and conduct statewide robot workshops and an international robot competition.
Smith, R-Sandia Park, is a teacher and a serious-minded lawmaker. His robot proposal, House Bill 25, is all about education.
The question becomes whether an esoteric science program ought to be financed in a state where the fundamentals of education are lacking.
Robots are frosting on a half-baked cake.
Spending that $300,000 to hire 15 or 20 more teacher aides would go a long way toward helping hundreds of struggling first-graders read better.
The submarine bill may be an even bigger long shot to clear the Legislature.
It calls for a $50,000 appropriation "to educate the people of New Mexico about the mission of the nuclear-powered submarine USS New Mexico."
Money would go for visits of the crew of the USS New Mexico to New Mexico and to recognize the top sailors of the crew each quarter.
Rep. Thomas Anderson, R-Albuquerque, introduced the submarine bill on behalf of the Legislature's Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee.
It is a rerun of an unsuccessful bill from the last legislative session, except this one is more expensive. The original version called for a $25,000 appropriation to promote the submarine and its crew.
Anderson's proposal is House Bill 16. How fast the submarine measure will be grounded is the only question for most legislators.
Nothing precludes history teachers and the state Department of Military Affairs from educating people about the USS New Mexico.
The undertaking simply need not be done with more taxpayers' dollars when so many basic parts of education cry out for improvement.