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Editorial

Editorial content.

In the age of social media, drama travels fast.

Parents of pre-teens and teens whose doctors recommend they receive the cancer-preventing Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine might find plenty of unsubstantiated reasons on the internet to not get the vaccine: it’s easy for stories—true or not—to be uploaded to a chat room and read across the globe in a matter of hours.

By Senators John Arthur Smith, Steven P. Neville, Mary Kay Papen

We and other legislators had hoped that the regents of New Mexico State University, in accepting the recently announced retirement of Chancellor Garrey Carruthers’ at the end of his contract next year, nonetheless would ask him to stay on for two more years. Chancellor Carruthers’ record of vision and leading the institution is outstanding, and big challenges lie ahead. The university needs him.

NMSU and all of our public universities in New Mexico today are facing extraordinary, difficult circumstances driven by state budget cuts and unstable state revenues. In his time leading New Mexico State, Chancellor Carruthers has made the hard decisions necessary to maintain this key institution, body and soul. His long, distinguished career demonstrates real commitment to the university, to New Mexico, and to his community.

Dear Editor:

After sitting on the sidelines and watching the GRMC controversy unfold, the air is beginning to clear. The contract problems with the Cancer Center took the spotlight and pretty much overshadowed the selection of a new CEO. Then the selection of Taffy Arias was announced without much fanfare. Not much to get excited about. Probably just another poor soul to sit in the executive office and watch the hospital continue it's spiral into oblivion.

But what is happening? All of a sudden the new CEO is on a fast track tombring GRMC back as a viable entity. Yes, it is too early for jubilation, but the selection of the CEO is certainly looking like a winner.

Editor's Note: It has come to the attention of the editor that some of this information is misleading and non-factual. Reader beware. 

The purpose of the Foundation is to create, maintain and administer assets for the benefit of Western New Mexico University a state educational institution, located in Silver City, New Mexico

For years the WNMU Foundation has been an important source of scholarship money for students of Western. However, it now appears that the focus has shifted from providing scholarships for students to employment opportunities for selected people and funding the Presidential Discretionary Fund.

By U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
August 1, 2017

New Mexico has long been at the center of technology innovation. Research and development at our national laboratories, universities and military installations has led to major breakthroughs in computing, energy, health care and national security.

The technology industry is a driving force in creating jobs and expanding economic growth. In 2016 alone, the technology sector contributed more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy, employed more than 7 million workers and added more than 100,000 new jobs. Almost 50,000 New Mexicans work in the tech sector at both our federal research labs and in the private sector at innovative information technology, manufacturing and engineering companies. The average tech industry wage in New Mexico is $85,200 a year, which is double the average state wage.

To the Editor:

Why does Western cost so much?

If you were to guess “which state university in New Mexico is the most expensive to attend"—attend means tuition, fees, housing and meals—what would you guess? UNM, New Mexico Tech? Wrong, the most expensive university to attend is our little rural (applied) liberal arts university, Western New Mexico University.

Western has the highest cost of attendance in the state, $3,300 a year more expensive than Eastern, $2,250 more expensive than Highlands, $2,100 a year more expensive than NMSU, $1,820 a year more expensive that New Mexico Tech and even $400 a year more expensive than UNM.

The Gila community still has concerns and unanswered questions about our senior services. As you recall, Mr. Otero promised to return to Gila to address unanswered questions, such as specifics on how preparing meals in Silver City for Gila seniors and making a daily 60-mile round trip delivery would be more cost efficient than cooking it on the premises. He and Edith Lee also did not have answers to the health concerns regarding transporting cooked food that distance and the specific food safety concerns of older adults and people dealing with chronic illness. See: https://www.foodsafety.gov/risk/olderadults/index.html 

The Gila Senior Center has inadequate offerings compared to other senior centers. For example, Lordsburg offers a cold breakfast, a hot lunch at the center or delivered to home-bound seniors, frozen or shelf-stable meals delivered for weekends or holidays, Bingo, Zumba, holiday picnics and celebrations, nutrition education classes, and transportation for residents for errands, medical appointments, or shopping upon request. It also arranges field trips to facilities or events.

The Gila Senior Center has offered a hot meal cooked and served at the center and delivered to homebound seniors five days a week and a weekly Bingo game that takes place after lunch and extends until 3 in the afternoon one day a week. These meager services are being cut by HMS immediately after taking over the senior centers from the county. Currently, there is no driver to deliver meals to homebound elders in need. HMS is not allowing the extra hour one day a week for the only entertainment offered, and they are providing food that will be kept warm for an hour or more or cooked and cooled and reheated (they didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it when they were at the meeting in Gila). These cutbacks from little to less are happening despite objections by the community and many attempts to convince HMS that the community is willing to partner with them to maintain and possibly expand local services.

When I spoke with Ms. Hunter, Senior Services Program Manager, yesterday she commented that the local bingo players would “be mad” about the center closing at 2 in the afternoon on Bingo day. Rather than finding a way to keep the center open that one hour on that one day a week for Bingo and continuing to cook food on the premises, HMS is determined to move forward with a plan that is in direct opposition to the needs and desires of the community and HMS’s mission to "positively impact the health, well-being and quality of life for those we serve."

There does not appear to be sufficient reasons to expose people to greater risks. People in the community have asked HMS to demonstrate the need to transport food and to show how every possible precaution is implemented to address the added risks to this vulnerable population.

Sincerely,

Joanne DeMichele

Gila, NM

By D. Dowd Muska

However well-intentioned, the activists suing the state for failing "to meet its constitutionally mandated responsibility to provide all public-school students the programming and supports necessary to succeed" have a profound misunderstanding of government education's ability to compensate for severe social pathologies.

The key assumption behind Yazzie v. New Mexico and Martinez v. New Mexico, consolidated into one case and currently before Judge Sarah Singleton, ignores mountains of research. Clear-eyed policy analysts have long understood that greater subsidization of government schools generates little, if any, progress in student ability and achievement.

In the 1960s, sociologist James S. Coleman undertook an enormous, federally funded study of race and education. His conclusion? "Per-pupil expenditures, books in the library, and a host of other facilities and curricular measures show virtually no relation to achievement if the social environment of the school - the educational backgrounds of other students and teachers - is held constant. ... Altogether, the sources of inequality of educational opportunity appear to lie first in the home itself and the cultural influences immediately surrounding the home; then they lie in the school's ineffectiveness to free achievement from the impact of the home."

Several years later, two Harvard scholars concurred. Mary Jo Bane and Christopher Jencks wrote that the belief that "if schools could equalize people's cognitive skills this would equalize their bargaining power as adults" was erroneous. Children, they concluded, "seem to be more influenced by what happens at home than by what happens at school," with "what happens on the streets" and "what they see on television" as additional contributors. "Neither the overall level of resources available to a school," Bane and Jencks averred, "nor any specific, easily identifiable school policy has a significant effect on students' cognitive skills."

In the early 1990s, researchers at the Educational Testing Service studied the connection between non-classroom factors and student achievement. They found that 91 percent of the difference among the performance of the states' government schools could be explained by five factors, including the amount of time students spent watching television and the presence of two parents in the home.

Closer to home, there is not a morsel of evidence that New Mexico spends an inadequate amount of tax dollars on K-12 schools. Census Bureau data show that the Land of Enchantment surpasses each of its five neighbors in per pupil expenditures on government schools. New Mexico spends a whopping 48 percent more than Utah, where students generally excel. From class-size reduction to expanding preschool, the state has embraced every trendy, expensive fad pushed by the education establishment, with pathetic results. What's more, the "fairness" and "equalization" financing dreams of the educrat lobby have essentially been attained here - just a few states post a lower shares of school spending covered by local taxpayers.

Sadly, New Mexico is a - perhaps the - national leader in self-destructive behavior. Illegitimacy, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, refusing to work, welfare dependency, mental illness, substance abuse and DUI carnage are at alarming levels, and have been for decades. Perhaps that's why the sue-for-better-schools movement prefers to place blame for poor educational outcomes on inadequate taxpayer "investment."

Lawsuits aren't the answer to fighting family fragmentation and the chaos it spawns. Work is. Ron Haskins of the liberal Brookings Institution recommends a strategy of "increasing work and reducing welfare use" as the best tool to fight poverty. New Mexico labor bureaucrats' recent finding that three-quarters of employers with at least one job opening are struggling to find hires - in a state with one of the worst "unemployment" rates in the nation - was irrefutable evidence of a dire problem: Too many of our fellow citizens prefer the dole to the dignity and pride of productive activity.

When making "no judgments" is the rule, not much can be done to address the true cause of underperforming students - and real solutions aren't explored. Seeking greater school spending through litigation is a dangerous distraction. Our state's time and resources would be better spent on a discussion of the undeniable role that government plays in perpetuating life decisions that are damaging to individuals, families and society at large.

D. Dowd Muska (dmuska@riograndefoundation.org) is research director for the Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on the principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

Live from Silver City

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