Sixth in an occasional series
The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for New Mexico Treasurer an opportunity to respond. Responses are published in the order of their positions on the ballot. Tim Eichenberg, Democrat, the incumbent, did not respond. Arthur Castillo is the Republican candidate.
By Audrey Callaway Scherer
Castillo: Spend on Learning, not Administration
Courtesy of Castillo
Arthur Castillo’s concern for education is of how much taxpayer money goes to students’ learning, rather than administrative costs, which are already way too much, he said.
For decades, the mentality in New Mexico has been that it is lowest in education and highest in poverty because nobody really bothered to analyze it or look at it from a different perspective, he said.
“I’m not a politician, so I see things differently. If this stuff isn’t going for books, then I cannot go for it,” he said. “Politics and reality are two different worlds and I’m coming from reality.”
As skeptical as he is, he would want to look through everything with a fine-toothed comb to see what is done with the money and why, he said. Because he doesn’t have the complete picture, it’s hard for him to answer how the spending is done, and he has seen no analysis of it.
“I see way too much unnecessary spending in the educational system,” he said.
A lot of times, when new administrators are proposed for schools, there are associated costs, he said. Administrators don’t need increases; way too much money is already going to administration.
“There’s enough of that. How much would actually go to students?” he said. “How they’re spending that money is a big concern of mine, unless I saw what the budget is.”
Many years ago, when colleges needed to hire somebody for a program, the person would need equipment and supplies, he said. Now, we also must hire someone to pick up after them, and when they do budget cuts, they get rid of the janitors rather than fix the program.
“When a project is over, they get rid of all the support staff in the wrong direction,” he said. In his opinion, they are not looking at how to fix the system, but just using the old system and pulling more and more money out of it.
Another issue of major concern is wanting to tap into the permanent fund for education.
“It’s a real heartburn for me. It really should not be touched, but they’re using education to get into it,” he said.
He noted that when he thinks about all the brand-new facilities being built, he wonders who they are going to house.
When opening a paint can, he said, one cannot open it from the same point or one will damage the can. One must go around and work from one point to the next.
“Education is important, and the system is broken,” he said. “If you’re going to throw money into a broken system, it won’t do the students any good, and that’s the most important – the students and the faculty.”
When he was teaching in New Mexico as a long-term substitute for two-and-a-half years, he said he was told to pass a student who came to school maybe once a week, never turned in any homework, and miserably failed the test at the end of the grading period. He said the school wanted the student’s grade changed, because if he did not pass, it would not meet its quota.
He said no, he would not change this student’s grade.
When people look at schools and their great teachers, they must also look at the demographics, he said. When the students do badly, it reflects on the teachers, but a lot of students don’t speak English or have the support to succeed by themselves, and it is impossible for teachers to tutor students when they have 20 to 25 students per class.
“It’s not equal and it’s never been that way,” he said. Some of the schools had better curriculums and everything was better, and because of the environment in others there was not enough support to pass the students, he said.
On the other hand, when he was teaching, they gave more tests than he could remember himself taking when he was in school, and because of this, teachers are teaching how to pass the test rather than educating the students, he said.
“When kids are not getting educated and are being taught to pass the test, that disturbs me,” he said. “I’ve been a politician since January, but I can’t give a politically correct answer.”
He was not endorsed by the National Education Association, probably because he is a loose cannon, he said.
He is not pleasing to the Legislature, because they don’t want to hear what he has to say and because he is not afraid to speak out, he said.
“I know I’m going to be fighting an uphill battle all the way, and if I fix just a little portion of it, it’ll be worth my time,” he said. He is not promising that he can fix the world and all these problems, because alone he can’t – it’s going to require teamwork, he said.
“I’m not your normal, typical politician. I love to hear from the people from the outside, and I want to be approachable,” he said. “I would prefer to listen to my constituents than anybody else.”
His whole platform is based on the office itself. The state treasurer is the bank, he said.
“Safety, liquidity, investments – in that order,” he said.
Part of the reason he got into this race is that he doesn’t owe any political favors, he said. He added that he is a retired chief financial officer.
“I don’t owe anyone anything except my wife. I owe her a lot,” he said.
“When you walk into a legislature, your political party should be left at the door,” he said. “If you start to vote party lines, … then you’re not doing your job or what you’re getting paid for. It’s about doing the right thing for the state.”
He added that he doesn’t back down because of how his father taught him to box. He has lived in Albuquerque his whole life and said he has had an uphill fight all the way with no political correctness, as people called him “Shorty.” His parents told him to blow it off, so he did, and he moved forward through graduating from high school, joining the military, being a clerk, and then using his G.I. Bill to get a degree.
“I would like to see voters find out who they’re voting for. Don’t let anyone else sway their minds. I would encourage people to look at your site and your opponents and make a decision from there,” he said.
He said he learns a lot from his campaign manager and feels that people can learn from anybody regardless of their age.