Heinrich Delivers Speech At New Mexico Parent Teacher Association Convention

(U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich delivering a speech at the New Mexico PTA 101st Annual Convention)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech at the New Mexico PTA's 101st Annual Convention in Albuquerque. The event featured local speakers, included informative workshops, and recognized NMPTA Proud! Awards winners. Last year, Senator Heinrich worked to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) a bipartisan, bicameral bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESSA eliminates Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which placed one-size-fits-all benchmarks on schools, and replaces it with a State-designed accountability system.

Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and thank you to New Mexico PTA President Renata Witte for inviting me to speak with all of you today at the opening of your annual convention.

And I want to thank incoming New Mexico PTA President Wendy Licon for stepping up to serve.

And thank you for all of the hard, and too often, thankless work that each you do to improve our schools.

Your contributions may often go unrecognized but that doesn't mean they are any less important. Your work contributes meaningfully to the betterment of our state. 

All that you do is completely voluntary - whether it is running PTA meetings, organizing events, or raising funds. These contributions alone cannot be understated.

I want to say "Thank you." You embody the true spirit of civic engagement and service.

Family engagement in a child's education increases student achievement, improves attendance, and reduces high school dropout rates.

I have personal experience in this regard. When I was growing up, my dad served on the school board in our small town. That's got to be one of the hardest jobs to take on, but it was important to him to invest his time and energy into making my schools better.

And as a father of two boys who have gone to public schools their whole life, I know how important involved parents and families are to creating successful school environments. I want to especially commend all of you for making New Mexico PTA a national leader in "male engagement." 

When 43 percent of New Mexico children are growing up in single parent households;

When one in ten children in New Mexico schools has had a parent in prison;

And when 35 percent of New Mexico children's parents lack secure income,

It is critically important for all of us-men and women, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles-to contribute and engage in helping New Mexico's schools.

I am committed to creating federal policies that help local school districts ensure all New Mexico children have access to high-quality K-12 education.

I don't have to tell you that the policies set by No Child Left Behind or the Obama Administration's waivers haven't been easy for educators or for our kids.

Accountability for schools centered on test scores, which pressured schools, teachers, and students to focus more on testing than instruction.
High-stakes testing robbed students of instruction time and devastated teacher morale.

That's why I voted to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act last year.

This new bipartisan law reduces reliance on testing, so teacher and students spend less time on test prep and more time on learning. 

Additionally, it includes many provisions that will benefit New Mexico, including programs for Native students and English language learners and strong investments in early childhood education and science, technology, engineering, and math-or STEM-instruction.

The Every Student Succeeds Act eliminates No Child Left Behind's Adequate Yearly Progress - or AYP - and replaces it with a State-designed accountability system.

One of the themes you will find throughout the new education law is consultation. 
Whether it is at the federal, state, local, or tribal, "timely and meaningful consultation" with stakeholders must be made in the development of state-wide assessment and accountability systems. 

This starts with the development of the state's Title I accountability plan.

I included a provision in the final legislation to require state accountability plans to have a public comment period to ensure that state assessments and accountability plans are developed with input from parents, teachers, and community stakeholders.

Additionally, states must provide assurances that those comments were taken into account in the development of their plans when they submit them to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.

The first of these 30 day comment periods will be coming up by this time next year, and my staff will remain in touch with you about the public comment period.

I encourage all of you to become involved in the process and hold the State Public Education Department to task on listening to your concerns and ideas.

I also support funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers grant program.

These centers, also known as Parental Information and Resource Centers, are one of the only programs that Congress maintained in the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

These Statewide Family Engagement Centers help schools and districts find effective practices to build ties with parents and communities.

I want to personally thank New Mexico PTA Legislative and Advocacy Vice President Lou Anne Romero and the other members of New Mexico PTA who came out to Washington earlier this year to meet with my staff and ask for funding for these family engagement centers.

I will continue to fight to make sure they have the necessary funding and resources to be successful.

When I look out at all of you here today, I am hopeful for the future of our state.
New Mexico is at a crossroads. We have to fundamentally change the trajectory of our state.

I don't have to tell you that our economic picture remains stark.

We all know the numbers. We know the frustration that comes each year when we see New Mexico near the bottom of national rankings for child well-being and economic security.

America is the richest nation on Earth. Yet too many families in New Mexico can't escape multigenerational poverty.

I believe that everyone willing to work hard deserves a fair shot at success in this nation. That is at the heart of the American dream. And that is why my number one priority in the Senate is to level the playing field for hard-working New Mexico families.

I remain committed to the idea of investing a sustainable portion of our state's $14.4 billion land grant permanent fund in early childhood education.

All of our public leaders need to give more than lip service to diversifying our economy. I know that I am always looking for concrete opportunities to expand the private sector in our state.

We must all work together to develop a cohesive and collaborative vision of what we want our state to be.
And, ultimately, that means we must seriously think about what type of New Mexico we want our children to grow up in, to learn in, and to thrive in.

I am committed to helping all New Mexico children access high quality K-12 education in our public schools, and then work toward an affordable college education.

And I am also currently working on legislation that seeks to lift families out of poverty through two-generation programs that holistically target both parents and children. 
You and I all know that all the potential we could ever ask for sits in classrooms across our great state.

We all need to do our part to make the Land of Enchantment a land of opportunity for all of our children and grandchildren.

Thanks again for inviting me, and I hope you all have a productive convention that will help you bring new ideas and strategies to your schools across the state.