Summit takes stock of education gains, goals for Doña Ana County

It’s been five years since the Success Partnership convened its first summit to create goals for “cradle to career” education in Doña Ana County. A lot has changed since then. Ngage New Mexico, an education-focused community organization that created the Success Partnership and organized a follow up summit Monday at New Mexico State University, wanted to put the changes in perspective with a comprehensive look at education data over that period from home visiting and preK to college and workforce training. Since 2015, Las Cruces Public Schools started its first community school to bring social services and after school programs to students and on Saturday the district will inaugurate three more. Graduation rates jumped at two of the county’s school districts, from 75% in 2015 to 86% in 2019 at LCPS, and 67% to 77% at Hatch Valley Schools, while inching up at Gadsden from 81% to 82%. 

The all-day gathering was part pep rally to celebrate successes, part tough talk about bumps in the road to better education results and part brainstorming session to chart the course ahead.  

Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage NM, an education nonprofit based in Las Cruces.

House GOP put kibosh on electric vehicles in final hours of session

Time ran out on the short 2020 legislative session, and with it, a bill that would have boosted New Mexicans’ ability to afford electric vehicles. House Bill 217 was killed on the last day of the 30-day session Feb. 20, during an effort by House Republicans to slow debate on the floor during precious few remaining hours.  

The measure would have created an income tax credit for people who purchase or lease a new electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or who install a charging station for the vehicle at their home. It also imposed an annual registration fee of $20 to $50 for each vehicle to feed the state fund used to maintain roads. Those who drive gas-powered cars already pay into the fund through a fee collected at the pump, currently 17 cents for every gallon of gasoline purchased. 

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, one of HB217’s sponsors, said changes the Senate made to the bill once it passed the House made the measure more “moderate,” but House Republicans still filibustered final approval in the few remaining hours of the session.

PED official: Solution to teacher shortage sitting in classroom

There are more than 335,000 potential teacher recruits in New Mexico — every child in the state’s public schools. 

That’s according to Gwen Perea Warniment, the deputy secretary in charge of teacher training and recruitment for the Public Education Department. She has a big job in a state where 644 classrooms were filled by long-term substitutes this school year. 

And as our report this week showed, that figure doesn’t really get at the state’s complicated hiring problem. It doesn’t show that rural and low-income schools have the toughest time hiring teachers, the massive lack in specialties like special education, bilingual and math classes, and that a growing reliance on people without education degrees has translated to greener teachers and higher turnover. Gwen Perea Warniment is deputy decretary for Teaching and Learning at the Public Education Department. (Courtesy of PED)

“There’s some important nuances to that because you have turnover in certain areas that’s much more severe than in others.

Governor, lawmakers tussle over funding for Ethics Commission

Last year the debate over New Mexico’s first-ever Ethics Commission was about its day-to-day running and its independence. This year it’s about money. 

And the game is on. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to give the state’s independent Ethics Commission a lot more operating money than lawmakers. She recommends nearly $400,000 to help the commission get up and running in its first few months of operation. The Legislature’s request is half that.

How lawmakers spend public money found “not germane” in a budget session

New Mexico’s every-other-year legislative sessions are, by definition, short. Just over four weeks. There’s a lot of legislation to cram in, including the state budget, and this year the governor is pushing for no less than legalization of recreational cannabis and free college tuition. 

But somehow, in a session in which only items pertaining to public money are allowed unless the governor indicates otherwise, shedding light on how some lawmakers spend that money has been found  “not germane.” And so far, the governor hasn’t included greater government transparency among the shortlist of issues she added for debate this year, or “on the call.” Her predecessor, Gov. Susana Martinez, championed some transparency initiatives. And in both the 2016 and 2018 short sessions, legislation to disclose publicly the capital outlay funding decisions of individual lawmakers was greenlighted for debate. 

This year, there are two sets of lawmakers pushing to lift the veil of secrecy about how lawmakers spend money for infrastructure projects.

New Mexico In Depth joins ProPublica Local Reporting Network

New Mexico In Depth has been selected to join a high-impact national network focused on local investigative reporting in 2020. 

Since 2008, ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom headquartered in New York City, has become known for rigorous and thoughtful journalism, winning five Pulitzers, five Peabody Awards, three Emmy Awards, seven George Polk Awards and five Online News Association Awards for general excellence.  

The New York based news organization will fund and lend its expertise to a year-long investigative reporting project by Albuquerque-based reporter Bryant Furlow focused on health care in New Mexico. 

Bryant Furlow is known for reporting that leads to change. 

His reporting has exposed off-label sedation of jail inmates with prescription drug cocktails, embezzlements, and lax oversight by the state’s insurance regulators — reporting that prompted new state legislation on insurance rate-setting transparency. With New Mexico In Depth, he detailed how the state’s freeze on Medicaid payments to the state’s largest behavioral health providers disrupted drug treatment and mental health services for children and adults across the state. He’s authored hundreds of health care and medical research news stories for medical journals, including The Lancet journals’ news desks, where his recent reporting has spotlighted neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, vaping injuries, the seizure by the US Border Patrol of children’s medications and volunteer health care efforts at migrant shelters along the U.S./Mexico border. The ProPublica Local Reporting Network was launched in 2018, and with the addition of New Mexico In Depth and 12 other news organizations around the country, now numbers 20 projects. In addition to funding a full-time investigative reporter for one year, ProPublica senior editors will collaborate with Furlow, and the organization will lend their expertise with data, research, and community engagement. 

New Mexico In Depth regularly seeks to collaborate with both national and local news organizations to bring resources, new skills, and more journalism to New Mexico communities, where investigative reporting is in short supply.

Help us create journalism for Albuquerque’s Native American population

Albuquerque is home to one of the largest urban Native populations in the country. And yet you rarely see sustained, quality journalism about this community.That changes next year.Starting in June of 2020, New Mexico In Depth will embark on a reporting project that centers Albuquerque’s Native American population thanks to Report for America, a national program that pairs host newsrooms with ambitious reporters. NMID has been selected as one of RFA’s host newsrooms in 2020-2021. NMID proposed to cover a population that intersects with many of the complex challenges confronting New Mexico. There is much reporting to do – about resilience, about creativity, about a continuing effort to empower younger generations through culture and language retention. And, yes, about the thorny problems that disproportionately affect Native communities.   New Mexico’s underserved populations deserve quality news coverage. This grant pays in part for a new reporter for this worthy project, about half of his or her salary and benefits. NMID must raise the balance.So here’s where you come in. We’re asking you to help us financially.