Editor's Note: This is the Part 2 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.
The next presenter was the Western New Mexico University Early Childhood Program, represented by Melissa Busby, director.
Busby gave several handouts to the legislators.
"We can use your support for legislative resources to the Early Childhood Center," Busby said. "This year we received $211,000, which is about 21 percent of our revenue. Other sources include charges for services."
Busby cited cuts to the funding, so the program is making do with less.
She said the center had a recent site visit and was reaccredited for five years.
"It was very successful, and we received high marks," Busby said. "I have included in the handouts our enrollment statistics. We enroll children from six weeks of age to five years. We have 170 enrolled, with 185 on the wait list. We are one of the largest divisions on campus."
She read a quote from Mr. Rogers, which ended with "Think about the person who has made a difference in your life."
"That captures what we do to make a difference in a child's life," Busby said. "Facts about brain development show that from birth to three years, brains develop faster than any other time in a person's life. At three years of age, a child has 100 billion neurons. We tell teachers: 'You are not just babysitters, you are brain architects.'"
Rep. Dianne Hamilton said she has been aware of for years of the excellence of the Western Early Childhood Center education. "You are known nationwide for your programs. It is so important for a child to get a good start."
Rep. Rudy Martinez thanked Busby for the excellent job the Early Childhood Program offers and provides. "My granddaughter started there. She's now nine years old and is an excellent student. She is very bright and outgoing. It is important to continue your program."
Sen. Howie Morales thanked Busby for staying in contact with him. "During the recession, it bothered me that we had to do cuts. The division of programs is early childhood, kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education. "We need to work together."
Busby said the ECP receives $211,700 in total revenue from Children, Youth and Families Department for specific programs, and that 51 percent of the children receive CYFD funding.
"Up to 80 percent have received the funding in the past, but fewer are qualifying," Busby explained. "And many now receive lesser amounts. A professor has to write a letter saying the student parent needs study time to qualify."
Morales said: "There have to be changes in the lottery scholarship program. We need time for discussion. We want a dedicated revenue stream for early childhood, and I hope we can develop it."
The next presenter was Edna Reyes, the governmental director of the Association of Students at WNMU.
She talked about the Opportunity to Grow program—"an opportunity to level ourselves with other universities." She gave a PowerPoint presentation.
The first slide showed needs for Western to become a better university. Upgrading the wireless and Internet systems were two problems that need addressing because of their extreme slowness. "After talking to the Internet Technology Department, which was hard to understand, I learned that one of the problems is density coverage and the bandwidth. It is aimed at laptops, but now smartphones and iPads are everywhere, and everyone is trying to use them at the same time. When a lot of students are using the Internet, it is slow. I was told that $200,000 would help upgrade wireless."
Another program the students are promoting is Lecture Capture, which would accommodate students with different needs. "Athletes miss a lot of classes, but they could be on the bus watching lectures. Students with sick kids could stream the class live. I live in Deming, and in case of bad weather, I could stream my classes live. Professors could watch themselves, and it might enhance ways of teaching. It would cost $600,000 to equip 20 classrooms with lecture capture, so $800,000 is the total of what students are asking for."
"I really agree with expanding Internet capacity," Hamilton said. "Kids grow up with computers, and if they get to college and don't have fast access, they are lost."
Morales thanked the students for inviting him to the Student Association meeting. "Dr. Shepard is very supportive of students. Would $200,000 be enough to sustain the wireless for a few years?"
Reyes referred the question to Jason Collet, acting IT director, who said Western is researching less expensive options, because right now, costs are $12,000 a month, and there would be costs to upgrade.
Shepard said the servers and routers would use general obligation bond funding. "The challenge is there is one trunk line into the area down highway 180. We need redundancy."
He recognized Serina Pack, who will carry an early childhood bill.
Martinez asked if students using Lecture Capture would be able to interact with the classroom.
April Hanson in IT said video conferencing would have two-way communication, as well as recording capabilities.
The next article will cover the Cobre Consolidation School District.