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Editor's Note: This is part 5 of a multi-part series of articles on the Prospectors' Legislative Communication Forum, held Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, at Western New Mexico University's Light Hall. This article will complete the education presentations.

Bruce Ashburn, Prospectors president, served as the moderator in front of in front of Sen. Howie Morales, Rep. Dianne Hamilton and Rep. John Zimmerman.

Next is WNMU Early Childhood Education Center, Ashburn said.

"I work with an amazing group of women-Elaine Howard, lab site program administrator and Cindy Manos, early childhood programs budget manager," Shannon Rivera, Director of WNMU Early Childhood Education Center, introduced those with her.

"We are requesting $275,000 to support a bright future for our children," Rivera said. "Last year, we requested $211,000. This year we are asking for an increase of $63,900. This is our 16th year of receiving funding. In 2007, we received a little over $500,000 and have lost funding each year. We know that early childhood programs are an economic investment. They increase graduations rates, reduce teen pregnancy, increase chances for students to attend college, support career preparation and support the development of productive citizens.

 

"This funding will support the need to maintain and increase program quality," Rivera continued. "Master level teachers are needed to train the upcoming workforce. Teachers with more knowledge and experience strengthen outcomes for children, families and students. This funding will support the program to provide learning environments that encourage discovery, imagination, observation, interaction and exploration."

She said Qualified workers continue to struggle to make ends meet, settle for less than they deserve, or leave the field. This funding supports the program to provide better compensation to attract and retain a strong work force.

"There are more requirements for educators to demonstrate outcomes for children than ever," Rivera said. "Educators need support to have a strong foundation in Early Childhood philosophies and best practices. They need support in meeting the needs of the increasingly diverse population of children, families and students served. They need support to collaborate with students from various disciplines learning through field experiences in the lab site. They need support in reflective practices to provide students with constructive feedback for growth.

"The program supports the retention and graduation rates for students," she concluded. "Data shows that parents of children attending the program have a higher completion rate, which in turn supports a productive work force, economic development, school readiness and better child outcomes, which will benefit us all."

Zimmerman said: "That was a great presentation."

Morales said he had a few questions.

"Parents can't work if they don't have childcare," Morales said. "I met with Secretary Jacobsen. I said reimbursement pieces are a concern. How do we address that? It's not just at the university, but also for private providers. Do you have any suggestions?"

"Because the university has a school of education, we could easily become a school of excellence," WNMU President Joseph Shepard said. "Grant funding portions may not get renewed. We need to develop permanent funding for early childhood."

Morales agreed." What is the starting pay for early education teachers? We were paying $28,000, but the public schools are offering $36,000. We can't keep qualified professionals at that rate.

"Maybe it should be tied into university funding?" Shepard suggested.

"I attended a policy meeting and got an earful," Morales said.

"I invite you to come into our facility for a day to see what is going on," Manos invited the legislators.

WNMU Student Government, with Lawrence Garcia, Arlean Murillo and AsiaMarie Garcia came next.

"We received last year $325,000 for Phase 1 of installing cameras," Student President Lawrence Garcia said. "We want to complete Phase 2. We installed 87 cameras. IT found someone to place and use fewer cameras."

"We have had sexual assaults, but the university did not investigate because they were not notified," AsiaMarie Garcia said. "We want emergency poles to pinpoint the location. They are reliable, provide handy features and create peace of mind, because 90 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. Statistics show 60 percent happen in the victims' residences. SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services) did receive some reports."

"We are at 75 percent underreported," Lawrence Garcia said. "We want to figure out why people are not reporting."

"We have a map of where to put the emergency poles," AsiaMarie Garcia said. "We need 12 poles, costing $500,000-$600,000. In October, we were awarded $375,000. By fall we had the cameras installed.

Lawrence Garcia noted that all the equipment would be fully integrated.

Zimmerman asked if they would be hardwired or wireless, to which Lawrence Garcia said: "Hardwired to Dispatch."

"In front of Light Hall, we have a direct line," Shepard said. "One push of the button on the pole and it goes directly to Dispatch. It could get reported to other law enforcement. As each hour passes, you lose evidence."

Zimmerman concurred: "The quicker it is reported, the quicker you catch the perpetrators. I'm all for it."

Hamilton asked how one would connect, and Lawrence Garcia replied by saying: "You push a button."

Shepard noted that if the person can't speak, it triggers it to 911.

Morales asked: "What is the protection from abuse?"

"You can only put in safeguards," Lawrence Garcia replied. "There is nothing to prevent vandalism, but with the cameras, you will get evidence of it."

"When there are a couple of examples made, showing that there are consequences, it goes away," Shepard said.

Morale said he believes the Legislature will put a significant amount into rape kits and sexual assault. "Maybe we need to tie this into it."

Lawrence Garcia commented that Gila Regional Medical Center had one nurse who could do rape kits. "Now they have to go to Las Cruces. It's an important issue."

Shepard said the victims of sexual assault having to go to Las Cruces would continue to push reporting into the shadows.

"I want to have Western be the safest university in New Mexico," Morales said. "I know that's what you're striving for."

Ashburn introduced Silver Consolidated Schools Superintendent Lon Streib.

Streib said he gave a book to Mr. Morales with the school's five-year capital plan.

"We have $6 million of deferred maintenance," Streib said. "We are also exploring more pre-kindergarten involvement. Funding is a major barrier.

The district has created Clear Pathways at Silver High School and the Opportunity High School. "Every incoming freshman will have a pathway and be able to graduate with a diploma and an associate's degree from Western," Strieb said. "I ask you to lobby for our own local destiny.

Skandera has put in so many requirements," Streib said. "Only six states are using the PARCC next year, and we're one of them.Lobby for fewer mandates. For testing, let the district manage and evaluate the students and teachers."

"I'm impressed with the way you're educating the students by computer," Morales said.

"From Sandia Labs, we got 1,100 computers," Streib said. "We will replace all the computers in the district. Every student at Cliff will start with a laptop or ChromeBook."

"Broadband is a challenge in the state," Zimmerman said. "I know it is being worked on and is a big priority to increase the speed."

"We quadrupled our bandwidth," Streib said. "It's closer to where it's supposed to be."

Zimmerman commented that in technology, they are putting stuff on silicon disks to a 900 rate. A breaking technology company decided to stay in New Mexico.

"I appreciate what Silver Consolidated Schools has done for my grandchildren," he said.

Morales said he would attend a public schools capital outlay meeting the day after the Prospectors forum.

"I think we will make it for next year," Streib said. "The gym roof at Cliff is hanging on by its teeth. The roofs at all the buildings are our greatest concerns."

Morales asked about Growing Tree.

"We give what we can to the university," Streib said. "It was $30,000 this year. It's in the budget for next year. The building needs to be replaced. We have one modular to replace the building."

The next article will cover the healthcare presentations.

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