By Tracy Dingmann
Whether or not to cut education to help the state make up a $650 million shortfall is a key question in the debate going on at the Capitol today.
Educators implored legislators to refrain from cutting the state’s already underfunded educational system during a press conference yesterday at the Roundhouse. The press conference was sponsored by New Mexico Education Partners, a statewide coalition that includes AFT-New Mexico, NEA-New Mexico, the New Mexico PTA, the New Mexico School Boards Association, and the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators.
To bolster their claim that cutting education runs counter to the will of the people of New Mexico, the educators presented a study done on Oct. 13-15 by the respected Albuquerque firm Research & Polling, Inc.The study showed 81 percent of voters believe legislators should balance the budget without cutting public school funding. It also showed strong support among New Mexicans for specific ways to raise taxes to help pay for schools. Specifically, the poll shows 70 percent of New Mexicans support raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and 61 percent support combined reporting, which would equalize tax rates between in-state and out of state corporations. It also shows that 49 percent of New Mexicans support rolling back tax breaks for the wealthiest New Mexicans.
The poll seems to contradict the popular argument that all New Mexicans oppose paying more taxes for any reason. When it comes to education, the survey showed, New Mexicans are apparently willing to pony up.
But the Albuquerque Journal did not mention the poll by name or report any of the findings in today’s coverage of the press conference and of the crucial education funding issue as a whole.
From the Journal story:
“Education union members held a press conference to claim that most New Mexicans favor plugging the budget gap without cutting education spending.”
The Santa Fe New Mexican mentioned the poll only briefly.
In an email sent out this morning by AFT-NM, union president Christine Trujillo asked why neither newspaper covered the poll in depth.
According to the email, the Journal told the teachers union that the Journal has a policy of not printing someone else’s poll.
Research & Polling is owned by a subsidiary of the Journal and the Journal frequently commissions the firm to conduct polls on issues it deems important to its readers –including health care, attitudes on public education and, most recently, how people planned to vote in the city’s mayoral election.
Oftentimes Journal-commissioned Research & and Polling Inc. polls will dominate the Journal’s front pages for days at a time. The polls are always followed by news stories and editorials touting the finding of the polls.
In fact, a Research & Polling survey commissioned by the Journal last month asked respondents whether they would favor raising taxes or cutting spending by existing state agencies to close the state budget gap. Funding for education makes up a large portion of the state’s budget.
The poll, which did not specify what kind of taxes would be raised, showed most people supported making cuts.
That poll made it to the Journal’s front page.
But apparently, when the Journal’s own polling company does a poll for someone else, it is not worth mentioning. What an odd policy!
And it is a policy the paper only follows sporadically. On Aug. 20, the Journal ran a story called “Quarter of New Mexicans Lack Health Insurance,” by staff writer Olivier Uyttebrouck, which was built entirely around a Gallup poll.
I guess Gallup polls don’t count.
If you’d like to read the entire Research & Polling survey, called “Public Education Survey 2009,” it should be available later today at the teacher’s union site.