Commentary: The following letter was sent to the New Mexico Public Education Department by Rep. Bill McCamley. McCamley announced the action on his Facebook page. The letter contends a Martinez Administration proposal to take evolution, climate change, and the age of the earth out of science curricula is the wrong choice for job creation:
"I write regarding the Public Education Department’s proposal changing the current nationally developed Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to a “New Mexico-centric” set, removing references to climate change, evolution, and the scientifically accepted age of the Earth in our school curricula. The proposal is a bad idea for many reasons, but I will keep these comments to my area of expertise.
As the Chair of the New Mexico House Labor and Economic Development Committee it is my responsibility to help create an environment where job creation can flourish. We are all aware that New Mexico lags far behind other states in unemployment and wages, and are now the absolute worst state in the nation for child poverty. This should be unacceptable to everyone.
However, one of our bright spots is a deep history of using science as a tool for economic growth. Our two world class national laboratories and three excellent research universities give us the potential to grow more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) businesses, and that is why Rep Andres Romero and I sponsored legislation this year to enact the full NGSS. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill. If PED decides to make the situation worse by sanitizing the NGSS for political reasons, job creation efforts will be directly and severely hurt. Why?
All companies wishing to start or expand care about two main things: infrastructure (roads, water, broadband, etc.) and workforce availability. According to the Legislative Finance Committee, we already lack graduates in STEM fields to fill new job openings (2600 students vs 4600 new jobs). So new and existing STEM companies are already likely to look elsewhere because they will have trouble finding people to hire.
Enacting PED’s proposal will exacerbate the problem by creating a bias against the students we do have entering STEM fields. As Kim Johnson, a physicist and former president of the New Mexico Academy of Science said in the Albuquerque Journal, “I’m certainly not going to move a high-tech company here, because I’m not going to get a scientifically educated population.” She will be far from alone. Frankly, this will also have the side effect of hurting our university graduates’ ability to get STEM jobs elsewhere.
Current tech companies understand the critical importance of fighting climate change. Examples are Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) who recently joined other top business owners in creating a $170 Billion fund for this purpose, showing how seriously they take the issue. When our economic development officials approach companies like these, and they learn our state is rejecting climate change in schools’ educational curriculum, we won’t be able to get in the door.
Finally, in order for our universities to develop cutting edge technology that can be transferred to the private sector we must have the best research faculty available. If the current proposal is implemented, any hard science faculty that UNM, NMSU, or NM Tech recruit will see the disrespect our state shows their profession and be more likely to laugh then move here.
In creating jobs, our state is already behind three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. This proposal is the equivalent to fumbling the ball in our own end zone. Please adopt the full, unaltered NGSS as written so we can start start getting ourselves back in the game.
New Mexico State Representative
Chair, NM House Labor and Economic Development Committee"