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Today's Opinions

  • Parents have right to opt children out of standardized testing

    There is a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (PARCC) that will be administered to students from grades 3-11 this spring. I want to clarify the options parents have in deciding to opt their children out of taking this test.
    Many of you have expressed concern and, indeed, dissatisfaction with the intensity of the current amount of standardized testing taking place in our schools.
    One of the top concerns I share is the elimination of a parent’s right in deciding whether or not their child has to take the test. I was appalled to be notified that school districts are intentionally telling parents that they cannot “opt out” their children from taking standardized tests.
    This blatant effort to misinform parents is a violation of a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children and it is unacceptable. Our children must not be used as leverage in a misguided national trend of high-stakes testing in public education.
    The fact is, according to the United States 14th Amendment of the Constitution, parents do have a say, and their rights are protected by Supreme Court decisions, especially in the area of education. It is their right to choose to have their children take these tests or not.

  • What’s next for the Keystone pipeline?

    After six years of dithering, the Keystone pipeline project has finally cleared both the Senate and the House with strong bipartisan support — mere percentage points away from a veto-proof majority. Now it goes to the White House where President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it.
    The Keystone pipeline should have never been an issue in Congress. Because it crosses an international border, the pipeline requires State Department approval.
    With millions of miles of pipeline already traversing the country and dozens already crossing the U.S.-Canada border the Keystone pipeline should never have made news, except that Obama’s environmental base has made it the literal line in the sand.
    Within the president’s base, only two groups feel strongly about the Keystone pipeline — the unions want it, the environmentalists don’t. Each has pressured him to take its side.
    I’ve likened the conflict to the classic cartoon image of a devil on one shoulder prodding an activity saying, “Oh it will be fun, everyone is doing it,” vs. the angel on the other warning, “be careful, you’ll get into trouble.”

  • Letters to the editor 2-24-15

    Dems want a ‘Ready-to-Work’ state

    Last week at the Capitol building in Santa Fe, something really exciting happened. The Senate Democrats unveiled an economic development plan for New Mexico that they call “Ready-to-Work.”
    The Ready-to-Work plan would capitalize on the strengths of New Mexico and New Mexicans and create more than 73,000 jobs.
    Thousands of workers in our state have all the skills and the drive that good employers want today. They are Ready-to-Work, but the jobs are not available.
    That’s why our caucus is rolling out an economic development plan that develops strong measures to get help to working people in our state by attracting new employers and creating more home-grown jobs now.
    Our Ready-to-Work plan is a package of bills being proposed by senators from around the state. It includes bills to spur job creation, and also bills that create opportunities for economic development in our rural communities. It focuses infrastructure investments that support jobs and bring economic development to the state.
    Ready-to-Work includes bills that help our lowest-income residents to fully participate in the growth and opportunities our great state offers and rewards them for their hard work.

  • Technology does transfer

    This column’s continuing theme is that we don’t know the New Mexico economy.
    That idea got a boost, presumably inadvertent, from Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
    “Those numbers blew me away,” he said. “That’s more than half a billion dollars that ripples annually though our entire community and economy.”
    Heinrich was speaking recently at the announcement of a $536 million, 836-job economic impact of the Air Force Research Laboratory on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.
    Perhaps Heinrich’s surprise should not surprise. After all, two of the five topic headers on his website talk about “Building a Prosperous Energy Future” and “Growing New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Economy.”
    A third topic was Heinrich’s new spot of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
    Expecting much technology transfer from the Research Laboratory is fantasy. It is in the “warfighting technologies” business, as its website says.
    In 1993, Al Narath, then president of Sandia National Laboratories, explained the continuing overall reality of national laboratory technology transfer. He asked the rhetorical question of all the science here as contrasted to our low economic rankings.

  • Foreign policy failure everywhere

    If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil?
    Signs of apparent failure abound while the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention abroad and widening regional wars.
    Despite President Barack Obama’s assurances that America’s combat role in the unceasingly violent Afghanistan is over, we know it is not. ISIS expands under American and allied airstrikes, the best recruiting program the Islamists could want. There was no ISIS in Iraq or Syria before America invaded the former and called open season on the regime in the latter. In response, Obama seeks unlimited war power.

  • The governor’s policies aren’t child-friendly

    As a politician, I can state unequivocally that “I love all children.” They are our future. They are our most vulnerable citizens, needing the greatest attention. History will judge us by how we’ve treated them, and (never forget) they make for great photo ops.
    Every piece of campaign material should have a shot of the candidate reading to a group of smiling, eager-to-learn children gathered around the candidate who should be reading from a recognizable classic of children’s literature. And as George W. Bush learned, it is even better if the book is being held right side up while the candidate pretends to be reading.
    As a parent, however, I’m not as sure about this “love for all kids” thing. Oh, sure, I love all of my children, stepchildren and grandchildren; love them with a steadfast passion that survives every testing of the limits, angry outburst, repulsive habit, or plain bad decision they demonstrate. But sometimes other people’s children aren’t very loveable. Often, people who publicly shout their love for all children don’t have any themselves. Time-tested parents are wary of such effusion. They know better.

  • Social promotion fails students

    Legislation that would end the failed policy of social promotion cleared the House floor Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 38-30.
    Social promotion passes kids onto the next grade even when they cannot read.
    On the House floor, Rep. Monica Youngblood pointed out that Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both favor ending social promotion.
    “Improving our schools and helping struggling students learn continues to be one of our top priorities,” said Rep. Youngblood, a sponsor of the bill.
    “Today, we took a huge step in the right direction to improve our schools.”
    Among other things, the bill would help teachers identify struggling readers and provide them with the targeted instruction they need to catch up to their peers.
    The bill also emphasizes parental involvement. For example, once a struggling reader is identified, parents are given strategies to help their child improve his or her reading skills.
    Studies show that students are four times more likely to drop out if they are unable to read proficiently by the third grade. One study found that 88 percent of high school dropouts were not proficient readers in the third grade.

  • Getting bills passed takes compromise from all sides

    Stubbornness and squabbling are the biggest roadblocks to progress.
    As state legislators, we must reject Washington, D.C.’s dysfunction and gridlock if we hope to improve the condition of our state.
    The reality is Democrats and Republicans will never agree on every issue. But as elected officials, it is our job to make tough decisions and find middle ground — even if it means both parties don’t get everything they originally wanted.
    As Republicans, we know the value of compromise. After all, we served in the minority for over 60 years. The only way we were able to tackle important issues was by working with our Democratic colleagues.
    Even though we’re now in the majority, we still believe in the value of seeking common ground.
    That’s why last week we amended our right-to-work bill to include a minimum wage increase to $8 per hour.
    We believe that it’s a fair compromise to promote common-sense, job-creating legislation.
    To be clear, not everyone in my party or the business community was happy with the addition.
    Nonetheless, there are many reasons that all lawmakers, regardless of their party, should support it.