Steve Schmidt, New Mexico State Board of Education
Steve Schmidt, the NM Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor in 1994, and platform chair and principal drafter of the NM Green Platform, has been a member of the State Board of Education (SBE) since ’95 when he was confirmed by the State Senate after extensive hearings.’
Schmidt has taken on the constitutional responsibility of educational policy and oversight of around 1/2 of NM’s state budget. MNM has had an “equalization formula” distribution of education fuds since 1974 and was one of the first stats to seek equitable educational spending via a statewide funding system. A relatively poor state, NM has consistently rated education as one of the most important public concerns.
The NM Green platform sets out education as its “foundation” and beings its discussion of social justice and equal opportunity with a long, detailed set of education goals. I have often drawn from the platform in my work and regularly consulted with NM Greens on education issues.
During my term, I’ve developed and pushed an unprecedented number of education initiatives, with great success. It can now be said that an independent, Green educational perspective has been clearly heard within the state Capitol and Department of Education.
My most significant ‘green’ achievement is that for the first time, NM students wil have environmental studies in their science standards and curriculum, the result of language I added to newly adopted SBE performance standards and benchmarks. By memorializing good science and environmental ed requirements, NM’s students are assured a solid scientific, environmental curriculum and education. Other important initiatives I’ve pursued:
• as a member o the state educational plan committee, I’ve helped draft NM’s first-ever “Strategic Plan for NM Public Schools’;
• I was instrumental in putting together the last two legislative packages for the SBE, which in ’96 tripled educational spending over the amount proposed by the Governor and legislature
• I worked to put constitutional amendments o the ballot for enhanced revenues (they passed);
• I initiated law suits against oil and gas companies that were under-reporting their royalties to the state trust funds (which are major sources of educational funding), and the subsequent settlements will add tens of millions of dollars into NM’s educational fund flow;
• I successfully pushed to fund full NM scholarships for all high school students graduation in good standing
• I coordinated SBE technology initiatives, including state education telecommunications planning and budgeting; NetDay; the Western Governor (virtual) University start-up; distance learning efforts; the Department of Educations’ information and instructional materials restructuring, and web page design
• I recently chaired the stat Board’s Special Projects committee, funding a larger number of worthwhile education projects with emphases on high risk students, dropouts, Native American needs, and teacher training;
• I’ve been appointed to be Special liaison to the Commission on Higher Education, to draft five- and ten-year plans for NM’s college and university system;’’
• I am the SBE Representative to the Dept of Human Services, to assist in the development of education, jobs and welfare reform.
I hope he experiences of ‘older’ Greens like myself will help us realize what is possible. We need to be seen as ‘serious and credible’. The Gren platform is our foundation and our platform flows from our key values. We must also practice what we preach. As we consider ‘critical thinking skills’ language that has been added to our state’s educational standards, we should look to improve our own ‘critical thinking skills’ and reasoned argument I our political debate, at whatever level we are involved. We must become a critical conscience as we attempt to elevate the debate and improve the quality of public decision-making. This is our ongoing challenge.
On the state board, my daily goal has been to work with great energy and care. I’ve tried to give New Mexico’s children my very best, to make real difference in a very short period of time. It’s been overwhelming at times, but I think we’ve made some profound changes for the better. I’m thankful for having and the opportunity to serve, as a Green and as a strong voice for New Mexico’s young people.