Steve Pearce will say anything to get elected, like saying he’ll work closely with New Mexico teachers to support the change our public schools need, but his 20 year record of support for measures like school vouchers and lower teacher salaries, alongside recent comments that he’d keep “almost exactly the same system” for teacher evaluations demonstrates he is not being truthful.
“Pearce has had over 20 years in politics to listen to and work with teachers to transform education in New Mexico, but he’s more interested in pursuing destructive policies like school vouchers, cutting classroom funding, and opposing even modest raises for some of the lowest-paid educators in the country,” said Marg Elliston, Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. “He’s now been busted for talking out of both sides of his mouth, promising to overhaul the evaluation system, but then saying he’d probably install ‘almost exactly the same [Martinez/Skandera] system’ when he thought fewer people were listening.”
WATCH: “We may use almost exactly the same evaluation system.”
Pearce has spent his political career aggressively pushing destructive anti-educator policies without taking the time to hear what educators themselves might think:
77% of educators and 85% of top teachers oppose school vouchers…
- In 2017, an Education Week Survey found that 77% of educators oppose school vouchers, which divert critical funding from public school classrooms. And 85% of Teachers of the Year opposed vouchers in a survey conducted by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year.
…but Pearce apparently forgot to bring them to the table while aggressively pushing vouchers over two decades.
- 1999: Pearce played a key role in efforts to hold education funding and the state budget hostage over school vouchers, trying to cut public school funding by $300 million. In 1999 Pearce voted against both the regular and special session appropriations bills in the NM House of Representatives. Pearce voted no on the regular session budget, which was vetoed by the governor in order to push a school voucher program. Senate Majority Leader Tim Jennings criticized the governor and allies saying that “a whole lot of people in New Mexico are going to find themselves in a world of hurt if the governor remains bent on saying there’s going to be no budget unless he gets his voucher program.” In the special session, the spending bill included funding for education priorities, including a 5.25% salary increase for public school teachers, 5% more for higher education, and $5m for early childhood literacy. Pearce again voted against the budget, which was signed by the governor, while pushing his own pilot school voucher program. According to the AP, “the bill would provide for 7,500 students from welfare-eligible families to get $3,100 to attend any public or private school.” The bill did not make it out of committee. Pearce had previously voted in favor of a full school voucher program, that would, according to the ABQ Journal, “have given vouchers to about 100,000 poor children in its first year at a potential cost of $300 million which would have come out of the state’s public schools budget.” During this entire fight, Pearce aligned himself with efforts Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon described as “at war with the public schools of the state of New Mexico.” [HB 4 1999 1st Special; HB21 1999 1st Special; AP, 3/12/1999; AP 5/13/1999; AP, 5/10/1999; AP, 5/22/1999; AP, 5/14/1999; AP, 3/20/1999; Albuquerque Journal, 3/20/1999]
- 2003: Pearce Supported Diverting Special Education Funds to Vouchers. In 2003, Pearce voted in favor of an amendment that would have diverted scarce special education dollars to unaccountable private school vouchers. The amendment was defeated 182-240. [HR 1350, Vote #151, 4/30/03]
- 2011: Pearce Violated Republican Spending Rules to Support School Vouchers. In 2011, Pearce voted for a reauthorization and modification of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program which grants school vouchers to low-income D.C. students without offsetting the cost of the program through spending cuts. The legislation would authorize, from Fiscal Year 2012 through 2016, $20 million annually to reinstitute a school voucher program in the District and would also authorize an additional $40 million annually to assist District public and charter schools from fiscal 2012 to 2016. This funding was not offset by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget and would have violated the CutGo rule put in place by Republicans; they waved the rule for this bill. [CQ Today Online News, 3/30/11; Associated Press, 3/31/1] The bill passed 225-195. [HR 471, Vote #204, 3/30/11]
- 2015: Pearce Voted for D.C. Private School Voucher Program. In October 2015, Pearce voted for the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, a bill providing funds for a private school voucher program for K-12 students in the District of Columbia. “House Republicans approved a bill Wednesday to extend the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally funded, private school voucher program for K-12 students, through 2021. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) authored the bill, which for the first time would require that some students with vouchers take the same standardized tests in math and reading administered to public school students in the District.” The bill passed, 240 to 191. [HR 10, Vote #559, 10/21/15; Washington Post, 10/21/15]
- 2016: Pearce Voiced No Concern Over Trump’s Voucher Plans and Said He was “Excited to Work with the Trump Administration to Advance and Strengthen the Educational System in New Mexico.” According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, “U.S. Rep.Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican and a Trump supporter, didn’t voice any concerns about a voucher program. Whether Trump plans to “promote a greater choice in educational institutions or the advancement of STEM” — science, technology, engineering and math programs — ‘I am excited to work with the Trump Administration to advance and strengthen the educational system in New Mexico,’ Pearce said in an email.” [Santa Fe New Mexican, 11/26/16]
Pearce doesn’t seem to have listened to anyone about New Mexico underpaying its educators.
- New Mexico ranks 44th in the nation in average teacher salaries. With an average 2016 salary of $47,163, only a few states paid their educators less than New Mexico.
- Pearce hasn’t committed to raising teacher pay during his gubernatorial campaign: Politico reported that “Lujan Grisham has said that should she be become the state’s next governor, she would cut the fight short by “immediately” halting the state’s appeal of the ruling. […] Among Lujan Grisham’s campaign promises is a proposal to boost teachers’ starting salaries to $40,000 from the current $36,000. Pearce, meanwhile, stopped short of making such a commitment on the school funding case. “This ruling underscores the importance of my plan to reform education. The old way is broken,” Pearce said in statement to Morning Education through a spokesman.
- 1999: Pearce voted against education appropriations legislation that would have raised teacher salaries. “The spending bill included funding for education priorities, including a 5.25% salary increase for public school teachers, 5% more for higher education, and $5m for early childhood literacy.” [HB 4 1999 1st Special; AP, 5/11/1999]
And when educators have graded Pearce on his work in Congress, he’s always earned an ‘F’
- NEA’s Legislative Report Card has given Pearce an ‘F’ each time he’s been graded. Their grades focus on votes in Congress as well as the legislators accessibility to educators and behind-the-scenes work.