New Las Cruces board member doesn’t grasp public schools

Nov 14, 2019

Credit Walt Rubel

Commentary: One of the two incoming members of the Las Cruces school board believes we should have an entrance exam for kindergartners, and only those who pass should be let in.

“I believe that there should be requirements for children entering kindergarten,” Carol Lynn Cooper said during an on-air radio forum on KTAL-LP community radio in September. “It puts the responsibility on parents. I mean, if we say five years from now, a student must come to school being able to read … with certain skills that they probably get best from their parents. The point is that they are really ready for school. And so, when a kindergarten teacher is working with these students, they are ready for what she has to give and develop.”

Five-year-olds who flunk the entrance exam would be sent to a different school, where they are groomed for a life of service-industry work and government assistance.

So much for a public education being the great equalizer.

And, just in case it wasn’t clear from the above quote, Cooper believe that it is entirely up to the parents to get their kids ready for the high-stakes test at 5 years old that will determine their fate for the rest of their lives. Early childhood education programs run by the government are an intrusion into what should be a family matter.

“That takes the load off of parents to be parents,” she said. “The very idea that there’s going to be a safety net, I think, gives the wrong message, and we desperately need parents to be parents.”

Desperate is an interesting choice of words when talking about parents in our community who may not have the time and resources that she does. I agree with the practices Cooper is trying to promote. Of course parents should read to their kids and play learning games with them at a young age, and the school district should do all it can to encourage that. But for a myriad of reasons, there will always be parents who fall short in addressing those responsibilities. It is the children of those parents who need public schools the most.

The idea that we weed out kids and only take the best and brightest is the model for private education, not public education. And, I’ll admit, it does make their jobs a lot easier for the adults who are in charge. But school isn’t for the adults, it’s for the kids … all of them. Even the ones who are starting a little bit behind.

Every August, high school graduation ceremonies are held for thousands of local students who are completing their public education. Each of those graduates has their own unique journey, and many of them came to school unprepared at the start. But they were helped along the way by a teacher who was able to find and develop their unique talents.

Cooper won in a four-way race where no candidate got more than 29 percent or less than 20 percent of the vote. She won with just 28.6 percent of the votes cast, beating incumbent Ed Frank, who was likely hurt by his support for former Superintendent Greg Ewing and the board’s handling of Columbia Elementary.

If ever there was an argument for ranked-choice voting, this would be it. Cooper was able to stand out because her views were more extreme than those of her opponents. But, as a resident who lives in this district, I don’t think her positions align with the majority of those who she will soon represent.

Walter Rubel can be reached at