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Columns

  • Grant expands state’s education success

     When Taos-based Imagine Education received a Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates and William and Flora Hewlett foundations this summer, the award was not just a triumph for middle-school students struggling to learn math.
    It also marked an achievement for the New Mexico programs that grow the state’s economy by helping small New Mexico businesses.
    Imagine Education’s founders credit economic development initiatives with helping them win the grant, one of 19 awarded nationwide for innovations in teaching literacy and mathematics. The grant will allow Imagine Education to pilot its educational math game, Ko’s Journey, in 10 middle schools nationwide.
    A business built on needs

  • Show more respect

    Natural gas doesn’t get enough respect.
    Two reports – one on last winter’s outage and another on the future of natural gas – make that clear.
    This month independent investigator Michael Johnson verified that February’s natural gas outage, which left 28,707 customers without heat during an arctic blast, unfolded the way New Mexico Gas Company said it did.  Fancy that.
    The company said at the time that freeze-outs in the Permian and San Juan natural gas basins, combined with rolling blackouts in Texas, kept producers and processing plants from delivering gas into pipelines and allowed pressure in the system to fall.

  • State leads in public payroll: Huge pension increase looms

    To fully fund New Mexico’s public sector pension obligations, both state and local, within 30 years will require an immediate tax increase of $1,756 per household per year.
    That puts us ninth nationally in what might be called the ranking of how well states have ignored their pension obligations. That statement is a little overly nasty.
    The Legislative Finance Committee and others have a fair record of raising the issue over the past few years. But the accomplishment is little.
    Five states will have to cough up more than $2,000 per household per year. They are, in order, New Jersey, the champ at $2,475; New York; Oregon; Wyoming; and Ohio.

  • Smoke and twitches

    It can’t happen again! Not so soon. I just don’t know if I have the strength to go through this again.
    If you were living in Los Alamos in 2001, you’ll now know what every cancer survivor goes through time and time again when there is a chance that their cancer is back.
    When the town was in danger of being devastated by fire again recently, you didn’t have to be a cancer survivor to understand the fear of recurrence.
    Whether it’s a high tumor marker, or a spot on a CAT scan, the fear can be debilitating and exhausting.
    Flashbacks, anxiety, not being able to concentrate, heart constantly racing. Sound familiar? Welcome to our world.

  • Public's right to know is evergreen

    Well, we’ve come full circle. Five years ago, Bill Richardson’s administration was asked for state e-mails about an audit of the driver’s license program.
    It refused, claiming executive privilege, and the Republican Party of New Mexico filed suit.
     This year, Secretary of State Dianna Duran was asked for state e-mails about a similar audit – a cross-check between drivers’ licenses and voter rolls. Duran’s office refused, citing executive privilege, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has now filed suit.

  • Perils of New Mexico's GOP Senate Primary

    By this time next year, New Mexico Democratic and Republican voters will have chosen their nominees for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the Democrat who was first elected to that seat in 1982.
    Chances are Dems will have settled on either 1st Dist. Congressman Martin Heinrich or state Auditor Hector Balderas.
    Republicans, in turn, will likely have opted for Heather Wilson, a former 1st Dist. Congresswoman, or Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, although two lesser-known GOP hopefuls, Greg Sowards and Bill English, are also running.

  • Getting virtual learning right

    Expanding virtual learning opportunities  is a critically important step for New Mexico.
    Virtual schooling was a critical component of the “Florida Model” for education reform, which helped transform achievement across student sub-groups there from nearly worst to first within a decade.
    The Florida Reform model has since been adopted by Gov. Susana Martinez — with good reason.
    Academic outcomes indicate the state’s traditional schooling system is not up to the task.
    New Mexico ranks 49 in fourth-grade reading proficiency; 48 in eighth-grade math proficiency; and 50 in graduation rates. Poor funding does not explain such poor performance.

  • Our daily bread in 2050

    These are the good times.
    I was driving through the country last Saturday, looking at deer happily chowing down in wheat fields.
    Everyplace is a drive-through if you’re a herbivore at this time of year.
    It’s a simple historical fact that wheat farming has been central to American agriculture since the country was young.
    And today wheat grown in the U.S. supplies American consumers and millions of other people around the world with large quantities of economical nutrition.
    Even a geologist like myself knows that much about the king of grains.
    But I was recently startled to learn that the temperatures experienced by American wheat farms back in 1839 were 6.6 degrees warmer than they are today.

  • Child Health Watch: Communicating is key to infant development

    The 100 billion brain cells we are born with have a lot to get right in the first few months of life.
    Imagine each individual in a population 15 times that of the planet earth all migrating to a specific location to make proper connections and communicate with others in a way that makes sense for the population as a whole.
    About once a day a baby is born in Los Alamos and although his brain has these amazing 100 billion neurons formed and in place, the way they connect and develop is influenced by their experience with adults and their environment.
    Most babies learn language from hearing it, so talking to your newborn is the key. Even before birth, a baby hears and knows the rhythms and tones of his mother’s voice.

  • Will teach pupils for pulp

    Being a teacher can be frustrating.  
    Meetings with parents after school, tutoring sessions, late nights and weekends spent preparing lessons, constructing tests, grading tests, getting really depressed over test grades – it’s all part of the job and as masochistic as it sounds, I love it.
    But there are things that do get you down. For instance, paper.  Yeah, those 8 1/2 by 11 inch flexible flash drives we use for kinesthetic education.  
    Maybe you remember these from before the computer age?
    You hold a stylus (called a pencil) in your hand and enter data (called writing) onto the information pad (called a piece of paper).