New Mexico’s children have arguably taken the brunt as the state has struggled through tough budgets the past couple of years, with cuts to public schools, state colleges and programs such as home visiting and expanded school years.
But with oil and gas revenues re-bounding, could 2018 be the year of the child at the Roundhouse?
Charlie Garcia is a bubbly 4-year-old with soft brown curls. Sitting down for a small group activity on a late-August afternoon at Alpha School in Las Cruces, she chatters with her teachers and friends. Sitting quietly nearby is Evelynn Aguirre McClure. Assistant teacher Brittany Polanco encourages the two girls and their classmate to build a house and fill it with drawings of their families. Using popsicle sticks, Polanco shows them how to make the outlines, flip the sticks over, glue them and then flip them back over so they stick to the paper.
How New Mexico educates its children will be in the hands of a state judge soon as a landmark trial against the state Public Education Department wraps up. Over eight weeks, the trial has featured dozens of witnesses and numerous citations to academic studies and policy reports. But in the end, the trial before First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe boiled down to dueling worldviews. The plaintiffs — the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) — cited education outcomes for low-income, Native American and English language learners as evidence that New Mexico does not meet its constitutional obligation to provide a sufficient education for all children. And they recommend a wholesale transformation of the education system to target at-risk students earlier and with greater resources to help close the education achievement gap.
New Mexico is known for certain characteristics: great beer, the beautiful environment and a rich culture. But the results of a small survey of University of New Mexico graduates and upperclassmen by NMID corroborates another characteristic and long-term trend the state’s leaders and policymakers repeatedly lament. Many of the state’s best-educated youth are departing the state for places with better job opportunities. A written survey distributed to 29 upperclassmen of 27 different majors, in both the arts and science fields, asked whether the students plan to stay in the state or not. Additionally, NMID conducted 10 one-on-one personal interviews with upperclassmen, gaining qualitative insight into their future prospects.
Colleagues of Charles Trujillo’s verbally warned Public Education Department supervisors on five separate occasions — and as early as the summer of 2014 — about their suspicions concerning how he obtained state licenses, a department employee said Wednesday.
The Las Vegas Optic reported this weekend a former state Public Education Department official “managed to deceive the very state agency responsible for policing school administrators and teachers.” If true, how did this occur in the very PED bureau that is responsible for protecting against such fraud?
This taboo of speaking about death is common among New Mexico’s tribal communities. Some people in and around Thoreau are pushing to change that after as many as 15 young people died by suicide in 2010.
While it might not seem like it from reading headlines day-in, day-out, the heart of journalism beats with hope. It is with that hope that NMID offers this series in a spirit of both humility and gratitude.
New Mexico’s Native American youth die by suicide at a rate twice as high as that seen among people of other ethnicities. And our analysis suggests that official databases underestimate the true number of lives lost.