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Today's Opinions

  • Letter to the editor 3-8-15

    Value of PARCC test questioned

    I am retired now, therefore my grandsons might be subjected to the PARCC testing or its equivalent.
    I still wonder though, if I had been “assessed,” I might never have gone to New Mexico State University, to spend six and a half years earning a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree seven years later and becoming a registered professional engineer in New Mexico and Washington state.
    I was scholastically outclassed much of the time.
    Years later, after earning my credentials, I decided that tenacity was more important than brilliance.

    Jon Hicks
    White Rock

  • Finding the right angle on education

    The basic problem with America’s educational system is not that college is too expensive. Nor is the basic problem that public school teachers are underpaid or that educators are poorly trained. The basic problem with America’s educational system today is that far too many children are given the implicit message at home that education is not a priority. “Perhaps the nerds and the geeks need these educational skills, but in our home, they just are not that important.”
    Our schools face a huge challenge today, because the educational message that teachers are trying to inculcate into their students is far too often dismissed at home. If you live in a subculture where education is not valued, it is unlikely you will come to value your own educational opportunities. We cannot expect our schools to inculcate values of learning when there is little to no reinforcement at home.
    The reality of life is that education and learning is not always fun. I was, and still am, an eager learner; nevertheless, some topics were uninteresting and seemed pointless when I first learned them.

  • House budget sets the course for a better future

    I’m proud that the House of Representatives recently passed a budget that will not only keep New Mexico on solid financial ground, but also chart a better course for the future of our state.
    With this budget, we underscore our commitment to fiscal responsibility while also putting our families first. We did this by dedicating a large chunk of new revenue toward education reforms aimed at helping struggling students learn. On top of that, we secured funding to diversify our economy and protect our children.
    I am proud to say that these legislative priorities are not partisan policies, which is why both Democrats and Republicans backed the final budget. Together, we understand that what matters most is making New Mexico a better place for you and your family.
    It starts with education. Our budget invests an additional $44.7 million into K-12 education, with more dollars going directly into the classroom than ever before.
    With this money, we will be able to expand tutoring and interventions for a total of $61.7 million.
    The money goes toward important programs like Pre-K and K-3 Plus, a program that provides additional instruction to struggling students.
    The funding also calls for raising the starting teacher salary from $32,000 to $34,000 a year.

  • Need to fix a flawed tax shift

    On Jan. 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico’s grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax (GRT). In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.
    A decade later, it’s clear that the tax shift was a mistake.
    With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it’s time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.
    While it’s all but forgotten now, many of the state’s liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the “very poorest people will not receive the benefits,” because most “use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes.”
    Currently, a qualifying New Mexico family of four receives $514.32 per month, tax free, in food stamps. A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.
    In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.

  • Proposed gaming compact and scramble for dollars can divide tribes

    We’ve reached saturation with gaming.
    Because tribes and racinos scramble for every new dollar, it makes for some strange politics.
    Last Saturday, the legislative Committee on Compacts heard from tribes and examined every pore of the compact produced by intense negotiating between the Governor’s Office and five tribes — the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and Acoma and Jemez pueblos.
    For a change, party affiliation didn’t matter. Republican committee members wanted to move the compact for Gov. Susana Martinez, but that didn’t stop them from pointing out its flaws and trying to amend them despite time constraints.
    Democrats dug in for their Native American constituents, but they too didn’t hesitate to flush out problems and demand renegotiation.
    Most interesting was Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Democrat who defended his constituents, the Fort Sill Apaches, perched on 30 acres near his city of Deming, and their right to have a casino. Smith also worried that we’ve exceeded market saturation.

  • Letter to the editor 3-5-15

    Numerous uses for plastic bags

    When I go to Smith’s, I take my reusable bags. My favorites are the two that I received free from Smith’s. They have box bottoms and wooden handles.
    They can’t be machine washed so I separate my groceries and request plastic grocery bags for the things that might leak.
    I have five wastebaskets and a garbage bin under the sink. I use plastic bags to line all of them. The only ones that get thrown away are the ones that line the garbage bin.
    When I was a volunteer at the library book store and the Jemez House Thrift Store, we used the plastic bags that people brought their books and things to be recycled in to pack things that other people were buying.
    On the rare occasions when it rains in Los Alamos, both libraries have plastic bags on-hand to place books in so they won’t get wet.
    The important thing about plastic bags is that they have handles. I usually walk to Smith’s. I use my backpack and plastic bags to carry my things home in. If I have more plastic bags than I need at home, I take a used plastic bag with me.
    Our Los Alamos Monitor comes in a plastic bag five days a week. I recycle them or use them for dog waste if our grand puppy is visiting.

  • How to navigate through the college aid maze

    If you’re worried about paying for your child’s college education, keep this statistic in mind: during the 2011-12 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 85 percent of all full-time, four-year college students were receiving some form of financial aid.
    Consider planning way ahead of time to develop a college savings strategy that fits with your finances. If you need more resources to cover additional costs, get to know the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA (fafsa.ed.gov).
    FAFSA is the universal application for current and prospective U.S. college students to receive college financial aid. It is the gateway to grants, student loans and work-study programs on the federal and state level.
    If you have a kid headed for college, it’s a good idea to learn about the FAFSA as early as possible. The universal form is the first step for any current or prospective student who needs help paying for higher education. For the 2014-15 academic year, the College Board reported that annual tuition, room and board (trends.collegeboard.org) averaged $18,943 at in-state public universities, $32,762 for out-of-state students and $42,419 at private, nonprofit schools.

  • Pet Talk: There is a vast need for service dogs

    The first school for Seeing Eye Dogs was opened on Jan. 29, 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee.
    Following a short-lived program in Germany after World War I, this guide school trained dogs to assist those in need, and since then has influenced programs all over the world, including the Texas A&M’s Aggie Guide Dogs and Service Dogs (AGS).
    Today, service dogs are exposed to very thorough and extensive training, and their duties can extend much farther than assisting only the blind.
    “When people see a service dog in a vest, they automatically think it’s a guide dog. When in reality, a huge percentage of service dogs assist people with all sorts of other medical, physical and emotional things,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, faculty advisor for AGS and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.  
    Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe arthritis or other conditions, and hearing dogs, which help the hearing impaired by responding to sound with a certain behavior.
    For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might be taught to go sit in front of the person to alert them.