Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham shoots for the moon

On Tuesday, there was a pronounced note of positivity for legislators in the Democratic majority as they grasped the opportunity to move on long pent-up agendas with a Democratic governor. It’s honeymoon time. And they came to opening day of the 2019 legislative session ready to play. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a three-term congresswoman and former longtime cabinet secretary in state government, has repeatedly trumpeted her hopes for New Mexico to make a “moonshot” for education in her first session. But in a 50-minute speech Tuesday it sounded like she was shooting for the moon, too.

Conditions for New Mexico’s children are ripe for change

The challenge is clearer than ever: A judge has ruled that New Mexico – once again ranked last for child well-being – fails to provide its children with a sufficient education, and must do better. Fortunately, after years of austerity, lawmakers expect to have more than a billion new dollars to allocate this year, along with a new governor who brings a fresh mandate and agenda. A policy window is opening, and substantial change is possible. During this special moment, lawmakers should prioritize early childhood. The science is clear – the first years of life set the brain’s foundation for future success in profound ways, and reliable access to care and education supports family economic and educational attainment.

Education comes to a head in 2019: Will lawmakers pass the test?

 

As the legislative session commences, public education is Issue No. 1 during the next 60 days in Santa Fe.And hanging over the debate about teachers’ salaries and envisioning schools for the 21st century will be state District Court Judge Sarah Singleton’s ruling that New Mexico has violated the state Constitution for not adequately educating at-risk students. New Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke about rising to the challenge days after her victory with Kennedyesque imagery. “We have an opportunity to do a moonshot in education.  That has never occurred before” she told a national TV audience on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

But it’s unclear how Lujan Grisham and the Democratically controlled Legislature will respond to Singleton’s gauntlet. Even with a $1 billion surplus, top lawmakers are saying there may not be enough to satisfy every education need this year. Lujan Grisham suggested the same in mid-December, as she listed a litany of needs her administration is inheriting from Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.

Spending on schools will have outsized role in budget talks

A person would have to live under a rock to have missed New Mexico’s gilded fortunes over the past few months. You have to go back years to find New Mexico sitting on more than a $1 billion surplus. In a normal year, the historic windfall would provoke dueling choruses: fund what you can while you have the money versus save the money for a rainy day. But 2019 is not a normal year. The dueling choruses will still try to drown each other out as lawmakers meet in Santa Fe to draft a state budget.

21st Century student success hinges on internet access

Gone are the days of chalkboards – and even whiteboards – in schools. The Las Cruces Public Schools district has slowly transitioned into using more technology, such as Promethean boards — fully digital smart screens that can connect to a computer to be used as a projector or writing board. And class textbooks and curriculum in many cases are fully online. That means students need access to the internet and a computer to do schoolwork, which is a challenge for many in Las Cruces. Twenty-two percent of LCPS students don’t have an internet subscription, meaning no data plans, broadband or any other type of service, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

It takes a community to educate a child at Lynn Middle School

January will mark two years since Lynn Middle School in Las Cruces re-imagined itself. A walk around classrooms and its cafeteria reveals signs of the metamorphosis.  

On any given weekday students drop in for healthy snacks or warm clothes in the school’s community room. Parents have access to computers, WiFi and office supplies to apply for jobs. Families and neighbors stop in for staples at a monthly food pantry operated by Roadrunner Food Bank.

Energy in field for early childhood education in NM

Editor’s note: This column is part of NMID’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here. I’ve always loved that analogy from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis that “states are the laboratories of democracy.” I like the notion that great ideas and different ways of doing things can bubble up from the bottom and change the way the world works. I was a young copy editor in San Jose, California, when a former roommate told me I should try this great new search engine, “Google,” to look for things on the internet. (OK, I can’t help myself.

Creative thinking brings child care center to Jal

A visitor heading down NM-128 to Jal would be forgiven for believing there were more people driving pickups and equipment trucks on the congested state highway than living in the small oil patch town of just over 2,100 people. Jal is an old ranching community — JAL was a brand used for the John A. Lynch herd, brought to the area by settlers in the 1800s — but today, oil is its economic engine. And that engine is humming. New Mexico’s most recent oil and gas boom has filled Heaven in a Cup, a retro burgers-and-shake shack off Main Street, with hungry oil field workers. Encampments of RVs and campers have sprung up around town and the economic resurgence has helped refuel the tiny town that sits just across the border from Texas.

Las Cruces schools set up first NM PreK classes

 

Heleme Brinkerhoff, Sonoma Elementary’s first New Mexico PreK teacher, spent last Wednesday morning setting up her classroom, a project that’s taken about two weeks. There were the magnetic tiles and blocks to sort, a puppet theater to put up, and books, crayons, scissors and crafting materials to organize. A longtime Kindergarten teacher, Brinkerhoff said she loved little children and play-based learning, so she was excited for the chance to prepare 4-year-olds academically, socially and emotionally for their K through 12 educations. “It’s like my dreams came true,” she said. “I’m looking forward to taking it down a notch,” Brinkerhoff said.