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Columns

  • Give reforms a chance

    Should we be more concerned that 87 percent of our public schools didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress or that Democrats are still nitpicking Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera?
    I’d say the AYP scores are the least of our worries. It’s apparent by now that this yardstick of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is inherently unfair and unhelpful.
    We also know that half our kids can’t read and 60 percent struggle with math. That’s why Gov. Susana Martinez plucked a veteran of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education team to replicate Florida’s success here.

  • Paying for cheaters

    The Social Security expert was among friends and in a mood to be candid.
    People who are disabled and unable to work, or who believe they are, can apply for Social Security disability benefits of lifetime income and medical coverage through Medicare.
    Typically, applicants are turned down on their first try, so they hire a lawyer and go to a hearing.
    That’s why you see so many ads on TV for Social Security lawyers.
    Social Security judges hear those cases. The claimant, says this expert, usually has an attorney, but there is no opposing counsel for the government.
    There is — no lawyer to advance any argument for why this person is not entitled to disability benefits.

  • Twin troubles awaken new politics

    Should we worry about the national debt? Is it wise not to cut down a mountainside full of trees to meet current needs?
    The questions together are a curious pair. Or more to the point, how curious that we never hear the questions asked together.       
    They are but two forms of the same question: How do we husband assets so as to maintain capabilities for those who come later?              
    Mull on it. The fields of economics and ecology are more the same than different. They are chapters in the same book.

  • 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.