Crash Landing for the Governor’s “State Jet for Books” Proposal
$335k in Leftover Funds From Jet Sale Are Unaccounted For
Governor Susana Martinez may be playing fast and loose with the facts and figures regarding one of her pet projects: buying books for New Mexico’s first graders with the money saved by selling the state jet.
In her State of the State address (start at 15′ 04″) in January of this year, Governor Martinez promised to use the “nearly half a million dollars” saved annually by selling the state jet to “buy every New Mexico first grader a reading book of their very own.”
“Every child will have a great book to read over the summer as they prepare for the first grade,” said the Governor in January. However, the project was delayed and in June the Governor’s office issued a release saying that the state had ordered 30,000 books, one for every first grader in New Mexico. “These books will give kids and parents the opportunity to read at home and allow students to overcome any effects of the ‘summer slide.'” (The “summer slide” is a well-known effect where children’s reading and math scores decrease over the summer because of their lack of schoolwork.)
Though we’re still wondering how books received on the first day of school in August are supposed to prevent the effects of the “summer slide” that happens while kids are on vacation in June and July, ProgressNow New Mexico has noticed an even more serious concern that involves the Governor’s own math.
The Governor promised to use the “nearly half a million dollars” saved annually in operating costs by selling the state jet and “take that same amount of money and buy every New Mexico first grader a reading book of their very own.”
ProgressNow New Mexico contacted the Public Education Department for details about the purchased books and learned this about the purchases:
|Publisher||No. of Books||Invoice Value|
|Raven Tree Press||17,569||$81,344.87|
The June 21st press release from the Governor’s office claimed that the total cost of buying the books would be approximately $192,000. Given that the actual cost of the purchases according to the Public Education Department was $165,153 there remains a discrepancy of almost $27,000.
That might be considered bad enough, except the Governor had promised that the state would spend almost $500,000 on books for kids (the savings from selling the jet that was supposed to be passed back on to our children). Where is the other $335,000?
Here are Governor Martinez’s own words from her January address (emphasis added): “That luxury jet cost the state nearly half a million dollars a year to operate. I’m proposing that we take that same amount of money and buy every New Mexico first grader a reading book of their very own. Every child will get this book when they leave kindergarten, so that every family will have the opportunity to teach their children. “
How can our chief executive make such a promise to New Mexico families but then fail to account for one third of a million dollars?
UPDATE (8/14/2012, 5:55pm): ProgressNow New Mexico left two messages with the Public Education Department today requesting more information about the discrepancy between the money Governor Martinez promised to use for reading programs and the actual amount of money that was spent. As of the time of this posting we have not yet received a response to our request.