ABC News/Washington Post Poll On Democratic Debate: “Harris Scores in Debate Performance While Electability Keeps Biden in Front”

On Wednesday, July 3, 2019, ABC NEWS and the WASHINGTON POST released a poll conducted after the two 2020 Presidential Democratic debates. The poll is an in-depth analysis of how the Democratic candidates did during the debate and the type of bump their performances helped with their candidacies.

Quoting the poll analysis: “[The] ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone June 28-July 1, 2019, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,008 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 5.5 points, including the design effect, for the sample of 460 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents covered in this report. Partisan divisions in the full sample are 29-23-37 percent, Democrats-Republicans independents. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md.”

You can review the entire report analysis entitled “Harris Scores in Debate Performance While Electability Keeps Biden in Front” with the bar graphs, percentage numbers and polling tabulations at the blow link:

https://www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/1206a12020Democrats.pdf

Following is the written poll analysis of the ABC News/Washington Post written in full by Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates with the bar graphs and numbers edited out of the written analysis:

“A wide advantage in perceived electability boosts Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he lags in having new ideas, is challenged by Bernie Sanders and faces a debate-energized Kamala Harris in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. In current preferences, 29 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support Biden and 23 percent favor Sanders, with 11 percent apiece for Harris and Elizabeth Warren. The number of undecided potential voters has dropped sharply after the first debates, with gains in support for each of these candidates. Others are in the low single digits, at best.

Given the time to register to vote in advance of the caucus and primary season, these results are among all leaned Democrats. Among those who are registered now, Biden goes to a 30-19 percent advantage over Sanders, with 13 percent for Harris and 12 percent for Warren. Crosscurrents underlie candidate preferences in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. A broad plurality, 45 percent, says Biden has the best chance to beat Donald Trump in the general election, but only 18 percent say he has new ideas, trailing Sanders, Warren and Harris alike. At the same time, 41 percent say Harris stood out in her debate performance, easily the leader in this gauge, a wide 15 to 22 percentage points ahead of Biden, Sanders and Warren. And among those who actually watched both Democratic debates last week, the number picking Harris as a standout performer soars to 72 percent, well above any of her competitors.

An impact is apparent: Among the half of leaned Democrats who did not watch either of the two nights of debates, just 5 percent support Harris for the nomination. Among those who watched the debate in which she appeared, by contrast, her support swells to 20 percent. That places her numerically second among Thursday-night viewers; Biden has 28 percent support in this group; Warren, 17 percent; and Sanders, 15 percent. Warren also does better among viewers of her debate than non-viewers, 17 vs. 8 percent support. Showing strength among highly engaged leaned Democrats, she reaches 22 percent, virtually matching Biden’s 25 percent, among those who watched both debates. There’s no meaningful difference in Biden’s support across debate-watching groups, and Sanders gets the booby prize – higher support among those who did not watch the debates, 26 percent, vs. 15 percent among those who watched the debate in which he appeared and 10 percent among those who watched both nights. Comparative inattention fits with his younger support profile; 18- to 29-year-olds, his best group, are least likely to have tuned in.

These results are from a question in which respondents were read a list of Democratic candidates. Asking preferences in an open-ended format produces similar results (25-18-9-9 percent, Biden-Sanders-Harris-Warren), with gains for each in comparison with April – Biden +8 points, Sanders +7, and Harris and Warren both +5. Those with no opinion dropped sharply, 35 percent in April compared with 19 percent now (and 6 percent when the full list is read). In another measure, intended participation is high: Seventy-two percent of leaned Democrats say they’re certain to vote in their state’s primary or caucus. That’s up from 56 percent in November 2015, when it was first asked in the last cycle, a race that pitted just two prime candidates. Current results are similar to what they were in November 2007, the last crowded (albeit not this crowded) Democratic race.

DEBATE REAX

Harris’ debate rating comes among those who actually tuned in. Respondents were asked which candidates stood out as having done an especially good job in the debates, with up to four names accepted. Among those who watched both nights, a vast 72 percent picked Harris for a standout performance. Fewer but 58 percent named Warren. Neither Biden nor Sanders, nor others, remotely approach these levels. (Pete Buttigieg comes closest, cited by 31 percent.)

GROUPS

Notably among groups, while Harris challenged Biden on the subject of race in their debate, his support is especially strong among blacks, 41 percent, 12 points higher than it is overall. Harris’ support, by contrast, is not differentiated by race and ethnicity – 11 percent among blacks and an identical 11 percent among all leaned Democrats. Warren, for her part, has notably low support among nonwhites, 5 percent. Biden’s support continues to skew older, Sanders’ younger: Among leaned Democrats age 50 and older, Biden leads Sanders by a broad 39-11 percent. Among those younger than 50, Biden’s support falls to 21 percent and Sanders’ rises to 32 percent. (There are no such age gaps in support for Warren or Harris.)

Among other group differences, Sanders’ support plummets among the most-educated group, while Warren’s rises with education. And by ideology, Warren does better with liberals compared with moderates. (Biden’s better number among moderates than liberals isn’t statistically significant.)

While the contest pits prominent Democratic women and men alike, there are no substantial differences in candidate choice on the basis of gender. Men divide 26-26-10-9 percent among Biden-Sanders-Harris-Warren; women, by a similar 30-21-12-13 percent.

WHO ELSE?

Former Vice President Biden and 2016 candidate Sanders are, of course, the best-known figures in the Democratic race. While they’re in front, it’s striking that most Democrats and Democratic leaners are not entirely wedded to their current choices; just about a quarter, 26 percent, say it’s “extremely” important to them that their candidate wins the nomination. That includes about the same number just among Biden’s supporters, 29 percent.

Still, asking second-choice preferences finds another advantage for Biden: Among those who don’t support him now, 33 percent pick him as their next-choice candidate. By comparison, among those who don’t currently favor Sanders he’s second choice for 24 percent. Warren is second choice for 17 percent of those who don’t back her now, as is Harris for 16 percent.

That said, another Biden advantage – being seen as the candidate best able to defeat Trump – is unlikely to be all it will take for Biden to prevail. It’s notable that, among those who pick Biden on this measure, 45 percent nonetheless support another Democratic candidate.

ISSUES

Health care is the top-rated issue for Democrats and Democratic leaners, and they side heavily with a so-called Medicare-for-all system, a central topic of the debates. Seventy-seven percent of leaned Democrats support a government-run, taxpayer-funded universal health care system like Medicare, essentially the same as in an ABC/Post poll back in 2003. Support remains high, 66 percent, even if it meant doing away with private insurance. Health care, moreover, is cited by 89 percent of leaned Democrats as a top issue in their vote in the general election, leading a list of nine items.

Eighty-five to 79 percent cite gun violence, issues of special concern to women, immigration, global warming and the economy as highly important, followed by foreign policy, 72 percent; abortion, 69 percent; and taxes, 60 percent. Preference in handling two of these issues is generally similar to candidate support overall.

On health care, 27 percent of leaned Democrats pick Sanders as the candidate they trust most and 25 percent pick Biden, followed by 13 percent for Warren and 7 percent for Harris. On immigration, another focus of the debate, 21 percent pick Biden; 17 percent, Sanders; 12 percent, Harris; and 8 percent Warren, with an additional 8 percent favoring Julián Castro.

Viewed another way, Biden and Sanders are essentially tied among leaned Democrats who focus on any of five top issues – health care, issues of special concern to women, immigration, global warming and the economy. One remaining item differentiates them – gun violence, on which Biden has a 10-point advantage. Warren and Harris compete for third position on all these.

While most issue preferences don’t sharply differentiate candidate choices, there are some differences in issue emphasis among groups. The economy, for example, is rated as highly important by 85 percent of those without a college degree vs. 67 percent of college graduates, and by 84 percent of those with less than $50,000 in annual household incomes vs. 70 percent of those in the $100,000-plus bracket.

GENDER

Some gender gaps also emerge. Democratic and leaned-Democratic women are 12 points more apt than men to cite health care as highly important, 95 percent vs. 83 percent. Women are 17 points more likely than men to cite taxes as a major issue, 69 vs. 52 percent. And in the widest gap, women are 23 points more likely to call abortion a top issue, 79 vs. 56 percent.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALSIS

Based on the ABC NEWS and the WASHINGTON POST poll, former Vice President Joe Biden did not do as well as was expected and California Senator Kamala Harris has closed the gap on him. Sanders is dropping and Warren is also closing the gap. No doubt Biden will be finding that henceforth, things are going to get tougher within his own party to win the nomination.

Notwithstanding, polls are nothing more than a snapshot of public opinion at the time, and one excellent debate performance or one poor debate performance does not win a nomination, especially in a crowded field.

The next Democrat debate will have fewer on stage in that many will not secure an onstage debate spot if they do not have a certain percentage of support in the polls and have not raised campaign money from a certain number of donors. You can anticipate more break out performances, even from Joe Biden at the next debate.

It’s going to be a very long primary year. Ultimately the Democratic party need to get behind the most electable candidate no matter who it is, otherwise Trump will be elected a second term.

14 City Council Candidates Qualify For Ballot; 10 Qualify For Public Finance

Originally, there were 16 candidates who were running in the 4 City Council seats that will be on the November 5, 2019 ballot with 12 of those candidates seeking public financing. The qualifying periods to collect qualifying $5 donations and the 500 nominating petition signatures are now over.

All city council candidates were required to collect 500 qualifying petition signatures from registered voters. The number of $5.00 donations needed in each city council district to qualify for public financing differs based on voter registration. The breakdown is: in District 2: 413 donations, in District 4: 393 donations, in District 6: 323 donations and in District 8: 425 donations.

CANDIDATES FOR CITY COUNCIL

District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton has 5 opponents who qualified for the ballot seeking to replace him. The candidates are: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, (R). David B. Bearshire failed to gather the necessary petition signatures. 6 of 7 candidates in District 2 originally sought public financing and 4 have qualified: Issac Benton, Joeseph Griego, Robert Raymond Blanquerq Nelson and Zachery A. Quintero.

District 4 has 4 candidates who qualified for the ballot and running to replace Brad Winter. Those candidates are: Brook L. Bassen, Athena Ann Christodoulou, Ane C. Romero, Hailey Josselyn Roy. Mary Sue Flynt did not qualify for the ballot. 4 candidates in District 4 sought public financing with 3 securing the necessary $5.00 qualifying donations and they are Brook L. Bassan, Ane C. Romero and Haley Josselyn Roy.

District 6, incumbent City Councilor Pat Davis has one challenger and she is Gina Naomi Dennis (D) who is an attorney, neighborhood activists and who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 to the Democratic National Convention. Both Davis and Dennis qualified for the ballot and secured public finance.

District 8 City Councilor Trudy Jones has one challenger and she is S. Maurreen Sakowin who qualified for public financing. Trudy Jones has elected to finance her campaign with private financing and has never sought public financing of her campaigns. Both Trudy Jones and S. Maurreen Sakowin collected the 500 petition signatures.

RANK VOTING SYSTEM REJECTED BY CITY COUNCIL

Currently, under Albuquerque’s election code, a candidate for city councilor must receive at least 50% plus 1 of the vote to win an election without a run off outright. If no candidate receives 50% plus one of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a separate runoff election and whoever gets the 50% majority vote wins the election. Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis, both running for reelection, and Republican City Councilor Brad Winter, who is not running for reelection, introduced and ordinance adopting a rank choice voting system for the upcoming November 5, 2019 election. Ranked-choice voting is also known as “instant runoff”. Rank choice voting is an alternative to the city’s existing runoff election system and it is used in Santa Fe municipal elections.

With rank choice voting, voters rank all candidates in a race by preference. If, after the initial tally, no candidate has at least 50% of the first-place votes, the threshold required to win a City Council races, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and the ballots are counted again. The process continues until a single candidate emerges with a majority of votes, thus eliminating the need for a separate runoff election. In other words, the ultimate winner of the election is determined with a mathematical calculation of votes listed at once on a single ballot. An elimination process is used and it eliminates the need for a runoff election and all campaigning time and costs associated with a runoff.

On June 18, 2019, the Albuquerque City Council voted 4 to 5 not to have “rank choice voting” with Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Brad Winter and Diane Gibson voting YES and with Cynthia Borrego, Don Harris, Trudy Jones, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez voting it NO. Notwithstanding the Council voting it down, a competing proposal is still pending to ask voters on the November 5, 2019 ballot question if they approve of moving to a ranked-choice system for 2021 and the ballot question will have at least one more hearing.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1329804/city-council-turns-down-move-to-use-rankedchoice-voting-ex-but-voters-may-get-their-say-on-the-issue-in-november.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Rank choice voting or instant runoff gives incumbents and unfair advantage because of their name identification. Ranked choice voting is a dramatic overhaul of the city election process and for that reason it should be placed on the November 5, 2019 ballot for voters to decide if it should be used for future elections.

Now that all the candidates have secured their positions on the ballot, the races no doubt will heat up and voters can expect knocks on the door from candidates seeking their support. All too often, it is only during election time that voters see and hear personally from their City Councilors. Usually the only time voters see their City Councilors is in news reports or at press conferences to take credit for something they had little to do with.

Voters need to take advantage of the opportunity to ask the candidates where they stand on the issues that are critical to their districts. Hopefully voters will ask Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones why they were such strong supporters of the disastrous ART Bus project and why they allowed the destruction of one of the finest police departments in the country by failing to exercise their oversight authority and calling into question the previous administration’s management of APD.

When it’s all said and done, voters must understand who they are voting for and if a candidate does indeed represent their best interests and not the candidates own personal agenda. One question that should be asked of the candidates is if they are committed to serving their full 4 year term and not run for higher office before serving the term which has happened most recently with elected officials.

Gov. MLG Forms Cannabis Legalization Working Group; Appoint State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino To Chair

On June 28, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the creation of a Cannabis Legalization Working Group. The task force will consist of at least 19 members including the Democratic and Republican legislators who sponsored unsuccessful legislation this year to authorize and tax recreational marijuana sales at state run stores. The group also includes representative of a labor union, sheriff’s department, health care business, Native American tribes, medical cannabis businesses, a county government association, and commercial bank and hospital company. Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis has been appointed the Chairman of the cannabis legalization working group.

https://www.krqe.com/top-stories/new-mexico-governor-seeks-ideas-for-recreational-pot-law/

The Working Group or Task Force will make recommendations to the governor that will be incorporated into proposed legislation to be introduced in the 2020 legislative session. Governor Lujan Grisham said after the Legislature adjourned on March 21, 2019 that she would add the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana use to the agenda of next year’s 30-day session.

Eleven states thus far have legalized recreational marijuana. Candidate for Governor Lujan Grisham said last year that she supports legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults but with a few caveats: it must be done in a way that addresses workplace intoxication and driving under the influence and it must be done in a way that keeps it away from children and meet other requirements of regulation, production, sale and distribution.

Governor Lujan Grisham in announcing the task force had this to say:

“I want New Mexico’s introduction and management of recreational cannabis to be the envy of the country … We can and will incorporate lessons learned from other states so that New Mexico provides for a well-regulated industry that, crucially, does not infringe on or harm our expanding medical cannabis program, upon which so many New Mexicans rely.”

Legalization of recreational marijuana has proven to very lucrative for the 11 states that have done so. It has also increased problems for those states. Governor Lujan Grisham suggested that revenue generated by legalizing recreational marijuana use and taxing its sales could be used at least in part to bolster New Mexico’s mental health treatment system.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334408/nm-governor-creates-group-to-study-cannabis-legalization.html

SHORT LEGAL HISTORY OF RECREATIONAL USE OF MARIJUANA LAWS

Since 1970 the federal government has classified marijuana as an illegal Schedule I Control Substance, making it illegal to produce, possess and sell marijuana. However, voters have had a chance to weigh in on state legalization of marijuana in multiple states.

The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California in 1996. In 2007, New Mexico enacted laws allowing the medical use of marijuana, but not the recreational use. As of 2018, the most recent defeat of a medical marijuana measure was in Florida in 2014.

As of 2019, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. 13 states have legalized the use of cannabis oil, one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana, for medical purposes. Seventeen of the states that have legalized medical marijuana did so through citizen-initiated ballot measures, and the other 16 did so through legislative action.

2012 is when the first states legalized marijuana for recreational use in state law. As of 2019, in nine states voters have approved ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and Vermont legalized recreational marijuana through legislative action.

https://ballotpedia.org/History_of_marijuana_on_the_ballot

2019 NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE’S ATTEMPTS TO LEGALIZE RECREATIONAL USE OF MARIJUANA

Attempts to legalize recreational marijuana use in New Mexico have been extremely difficult during the last 8 years, predominately because of strong opposition from the former Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named” and those conservative Republican and Democrat legislators who should be named. During the 2019 New Mexico Legislature which ended March 15, 2019, that changed with the election of Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham and the most progress was made when one bill actually made it through the New Mexico House of Representatives.

HOUSE BILL 356

On March 7, 2019 the state House passed House Bill 356 (HB 356) with a two-vote majority of 36 to 34. HB 356 was the first recreational marijuana proposal ever passed by one of New Mexico’s legislative chambers. HB 356 was legislation that was the result of bipartisan efforts and talks involving House Democrats and Senate Republicans. Every Republican Representative in the House voted against HB 356 joining 10 Democrats in opposition to it. All previous efforts of marijuana legalization have failed in the Senate because of skepticism from conservative Democrats in the Senate.

HB 356 bill included a provision for state run and regulated stores. The compromise bill required people to keep receipts showing they purchased their marijuana legally, and they could carry only 1 ounce of cannabis and couldn’t grow it on their own. House Bill 356 was a broad marijuana legalization proposal and dedicated some of the tax revenue from cannabis sales to research into cannabis impairment, purchasing roadside testing equipment for law enforcement and to train police officers as drug recognition experts when drivers are stopped. The bill made it clear that employers could still maintain drug-free workplace policies.

The bipartisan HB 356 stalled in the Senate and never made it to the full Senate for passage. The legislation failed when the session was adjourned on March 21, 2019.

SENATE BILL 577

Senate Bill 577 was the New Mexico Senate’s version of legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It included state run stores. The 3 Republican Senator sponsors Cliff Pirtle, Mark Moors and Craig Brandt argue that legalization is inevitable and that state-run stores would help limit exposure to children and allow New Mexico regulators to respond to problems. State run stores appealed to many because it would have given the state strong regulatory controls and make it easier to keep cannabis products away from children.

Under the Senate proposed legislation, New Mexico itself would get into the cannabis business by operating a network of retail stores to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older. A state “Cannabis Control Commission” would have been created to operate cannabis shops by summer 2020. The marijuana would have been sold on consignment, meaning the state would not own the cannabis.

Under the Senate Bill, recreational marijuana would have been grown by private businesses under a complex regulatory system and sold only at state-run stores, with limited exceptions. It would have given the state tremendous control over where and how the products would have been sold and who could have gotten their product to customers. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the system proposed for state run recreational cannabis stores would have been the first of its kind for recreational marijuana in the United States.

Senate Bill 577 never made it through the State Senate and the legislation failed when the session was adjourned on March 21, 2019.

CHANGES MADE TO NEW MEXICO’S MEDICAL CANNABIS LAW

There are over 70,000 people enrolled statewide in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. During the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session, the legislature enacted changes to the medical cannabis laws giving more workplace protections to those enrolled in the program. In April, 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law the changes made by the legislature to the program and the changes took effect on July 1, 2019.

Two of the major changes involve work place protections for those enrolled in the program and are:

1. The law now provides that it is unlawful in most circumstances for an employer to fire or otherwise discipline a worker based on allowable conduct under the state’s medical marijuana program. It is not clear whether this change in the law will affect employers with policies that require drug testing of applicants before they are hired, with a positive test precluding their hiring regardless of whether they have a medical marijuana card.

2. The second major change to the law specifies that employers can still establish policies barring use of medical marijuana on the job or showing up under the influence of the drug and take action against employees who violate the policy. Concern has been raised in the business community that anything that would limit an employer’s ability to enforce their drug-free workplace programs would be problematic.

New Mexico State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, the sponsor of the legislation, said in an Albuquerque Journal interview the changes are not intended to render drug-free workplace policies untenable, but acknowledged lawmakers may have to revisit the issue in the future to further fine-tune language in the law.

Three other major changes to New Mexico’s medical cannabis law include:

1. Allowing medical marijuana in schools, under certain circumstances.
2. Extending the length of an approved patient identification card from one year to three years.
3. Mandating that a licensed medical marijuana user cannot be denied an organ transplant on the basis of their participation in the program.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335093/medical-cannabis-law-changes-may-spark-confusion-ex-business-leaders-concerned-about-enforcing-drugfree-workplace-rules.html

NEW MEXICO REDUCES CRIMINAL PENALTIES

During the 2019 New Mexico legislative session, lawmakers enacted legislation that reduces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. In April 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law Senate Bill 323 that makes first-time possession of up to a half ounce a petty misdemeanor offense, punishable by a $50 fine. It also decriminalizes possession of drug paraphernalia, making New Mexico the first state to do so in the country. The reduced criminal penalties go into effect on July 1, 2019.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis has been appointed the Chair of the Cannabis Legalization Working Group. Pat Davis has a reputation as opportunist and always promoting himself and his own personal political agenda. Last year, Davis ran for US Congress in the First Congressional District but withdrew from the race when he polled at 3% and could not raise the money to run a viable campaign. Before Davis withdrew from the congressional race, Davis accused the then Democrat front runner of being a “racist” which was an absolute lie and he has never apologized for it. While he served on the City Task Force formed to propose changes to the City Public Finance law, Davis declined to advocate meaningful changes to Albuquerque’s public finance laws making it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance. The only change Davis agreed to was increasing the amount of money candidates get and not the process of collecting the donations to qualify and not expanding the time to collect qualifying donations.

The likelihood of the success of the task force should be considered high given the fact that it appears bipartisan and will consist of at least 19 state lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, law enforcement officials and medical marijuana executives that will study other states’ experiences with legalizing cannabis use. The task force members consist of people that have actually worked on the issue of marijuana legalization and legislation on a statewide basis, they understand it completely and how the New Mexico legislature operates. You cannot say the same for the appointed chair of the task force. A member of the legislature such as State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino who has an understanding of the issue should be appointed to chair the task force.

With the creation and appointment of the Cannabis Legalization Working Group Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is laying the groundwork for a legalization bill to make it to her desk in 2020. With over 6 months before the 2020 legislative session starts in January, it is very likely that the task force will be able to come up with a framework for a few proposed bills ready to go by late November, giving enough time for interim legislative committees to review the proposals and perhaps even finding sponsors.

One major option that should be considered is placing the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, which has been done in other states. Further, the task force will provide the opportunity to fine tune the language in the medical cannabis laws giving more workplace protections to those enrolled in the program so as not to render drug-free workplace policies untenable.

POSTSCRIPT

You can review related media coverage at the below links:

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/recreational-marijuana-bill-advances-in-legislature-/5273956/?cat=500

https://www.abqjournal.com/1289448/marijuana-compromise-emerges-in-capitol.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/bill-legalizing-recreational-marijuana-to-hit-senate-floor/1839034177

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/recreational-marijuana-bill-advances-in-legislature-/5273956/?cat=500

Enacted NM $3.2 Billion Dollar Public Education Budget Claimed Not To Be Enough; $7.3 Million Shortfall For Pre-Kindergarten Programs Announced

In 2014 the landmark case of “Yazzie-Martinez” was filed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The lawsuit alleged that the state of New Mexico and the previous Republican Governor Administration violated the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education in reading, writing and math.

On July 20, 2018, after a two-week trial and days of expert testimony, a Santa Fe District Court found that the constitutional rights of at-risk students were indeed violated and ordered the state to properly fund the Public Education Department and implement new policies. Soon after assuming office on January 1, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that her Administration would not appeal the District Court ruling setting the stage for public education reform and funding for the 2019 New Mexico legislative session.

After almost a full year after the court ruling and close to 4 months after the 2019 legislative session, the Plaintiff’s filed a status report on the State’s Public Education Department’s (PED) compliance with the Court’s ruling. Further, the PED announced a significant shortfall in fund programs for state prekindergarten classes in the coming school year.

This article is intended to give an overview of the court ruling, legislative funding, the court filed status report, and the reported shortfall in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

DETAILS OF DISTRICT COURT RULING

The landmark lawsuit filed against the state and the Public Education Department alleged a severe lack of state funding, resources and services to help students, particularly children from low-income families, students of color, including Native Americans, English-language learners and students with disabilities. The court ruling confirmed what went on for 8 years with the state’s at-risk children under the former Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”. The Judge found that it was clear that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system. According to the court ruling, during the 8 years of the former Republican Governor Administration at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career.

In the blistering written opinion, the Judge wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

In New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners. Further, 14.8 percent of students have disabilities, and 10.6 percent are Native American. Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country and stated:

“The evidence shows that school districts do not have the funds to pay for all the teachers they need. … [An example is] Gadsden, one of the better performing school districts in the state, has had to eliminate over 53 classroom positions and 15 essential teachers since 2008.”

The Court also faulted the former Republican Governor’s Administration’s failure to provide access to technology in rural districts.

The Judge addressed the state teacher evaluation system implemented by the previous Republican Governor Administration by saying:

“[The teacher evaluation system] may be contributing to the lower quality of teachers in high-need schools. … In general, punitive teacher evaluation systems that penalize teachers for working in high-need schools contribute to problems in this category of schools.”

The Court rejected the former Republican Governor Administration’s arguments that no new funding is needed because at-risk student performances are improving.

In the original court ruling filed on July 20, 2018, the State was given until April 15, 2019 to present plans to come into compliance.

NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE PED FUNDING

The 2019 New Mexico Legislature that ended March 15, 2019 approved a $7 Billion State Budget. The $7 Billion State budget includes a $3.2 Billion Public Education Department (PED) budget. The PED approved budget represents a 16% increase over last year’s budget. Included in the budget is $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay. The massive infusion of funding to public education is the result of the District Court ruling that ruled the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

Early childhood programs were also given a major increase in funding by the 2019 New Mexico legislature. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers and school administrators were also given a 6% pay raises with more money to hire teachers.

A new “Early Childhood Department” was created starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, is more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

STATUS REPORT

On Friday, June 21 2019, the Plaintiff’s who prevailed in the landmark public education case against the state filed a pleading giving their update to the district court on the status of the case. According to the update pleading filed, the state and lawmakers still have not done enough to ensure all students have access to an adequate education.

According to the Plaintiff’s status report:

“The court was quite clear about what needed to be done. But instead of doing these things, the legislature again simply followed its old mode of operation: it took last year’s budget, made some adjustments, with some steps forward and some steps backwards, and, in the end, left us with a patchwork system of education and inadequate funding that continues to fail our students … The legislature failed to sufficiently fund the education budget to ensure schools had sufficient resources for their at-risk students. … [the] plaintiffs have determined from [their research] that the outcome of the 2019 Legislative Session was anything but the ‘moonshot’ as claimed by legislative leadership. … Instead, after making required raises, districts are left with little or no money to implement additional programming, supports and services for at-risk students.”

The Plaintiff’s report to the district court alleges that notwithstanding the 16% increase and the $447 million spending infusion for public schools, the state and lawmakers still have not done enough to ensure all students have access to an adequate education. The plaintiffs argue the boosts in education funding primarily went to pay for mandated educator salary increases. The Legislature authorized pay raises of at least 6% for teachers and other school staff for the coming school year and set starting teacher pay at a minimum of $41,000 per year.

The update court filing takes notice of the uptick in an at-risk factor within the state’s school funding formula and highlights monies set aside for extended learning programs. However, the pleading says more needs to be done to make sure kids have the needed teachers, programs and services. The plaintiffs did not ask the judge to intervene and are working with the PED on an implementation plan to remedy and comply with the judge’s orders.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334649/filing-state-not-doing-enough-for-atrisk-students.html

$7.3 MILLION MORE NEEDED FOR PRE KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS

On June 20, 2019, officials with the Public Education Department (PED) reported that an additional $7.3 million is needed to fund programs for state prekindergarten classes in the coming school year. The additional funding is due to a significant increase in demand of the students who have applied for the 2019-2020 school year.

Last year, approximately 6,700 kids attended full- and half-day programs. According to PED officials, 7,767 applications have been submitted for the coming school year. Among the 7,767 applicants a much larger interest is shown in full-day programs. Full day programs are more expensive than half-day programs.

Last year, 3,554 kids were enrolled in half-day pre-kindergarten programs and 3,220 enrolled in full-day programs. According to PED officials, more than 5,000 students are applying to get into 2019-2020 full-day programs. Just 2,671 student applications have been submitted for half-day.

In 2018-2019, PED was allocated a total budget of $36.7 million for pre kindergarten programs. For the 2019-2020 school year, PED’s total pre-kindergarten budget is $42.5 million. According to the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), the amount has gone up significantly over a decade, increasing by at least $9 million.

The Public Education Department is scrambling to determine where the needed $7 million could come from, including seeking money from New Mexico lawmakers or shifting around internal funds. PED can ask for more money in the form of supplemental appropriations from the Legislature, those appropriations can be authorized only when the full Legislature is in session, which is not scheduled to happen until January.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1330707/ped-7m-more-needed-to-fund-201920-prek-requests.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The 2019-2020 approved budget enacted by the New Mexico legislature became effective July 1, 2019, meaning absolutely not a single cent of the $7 Billion Dollar budget could have been spent by any government agency until then. The $7 Billion State budget includes a $3.2 Billion Public Education Department (PED) budget with a massive 16% infusion of additional funding. It is for this reason it is very hard to determine how much credibility should be given to the June 21, 2019 Plaintiff’s status report when it reports:

“The legislature failed to sufficiently fund the education budget to ensure schools had sufficient resources for their at-risk students. … [the] plaintiffs have determined from [their research] that after making required raises, districts are left with little or no money to implement additional programming, supports and services for at-risk students.”

It is likely the State will be submitting it’s own status report in response to the June 21, 2019 Plaintiff’s status report and give it own version of what has happened in carrying out the Court’s order.

It is very hard to determine how much credibility should be given to the June 20, 2019 Public Education Department claim that an additional $7.3 million is needed to fund programs for state prekindergarten classes in the coming school year. The statistics offered by PED to explain the shortfall are that approximately 6,700 kids attended full-day and half-day programs last year and that 7,767 applications have been submitted for the coming school year. Among the 7,767 applicants, a much larger interest is shown in full-day programs but PED offers no details. In other words, PED is claiming it needs $7.3 Million more for 167 more students without giving a breakdown of the number of full-day applicants in the 7,767-applicant pool.

The Appropriation Committees and Education Committees of both the New Mexico House and Senate need to convene interim committee hearing and start asking some hard questions as to how the PED $3.2 Billion Budget is actually being spent.

It is going to take far more than one legislative session to repair the damage done during the last 8 years to the State’s education system. It will take years of sustained effort before New Mexico’s public education system will get better. It will take a real commitment by the New Mexico Legislature to realize that New Mexico has an education crisis and now is the time to act. For these reasons, the debate over using a small portion of the state’s $17 billion Land Grant Permanent fund for early childhood education, care and intervention needs to continue. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham should continue her efforts to give major attention to use of the State’s Land Grant and Permanent Fund to finally solve many of our early childhood education, care and intervention problems.

You can read a related blog article at the below link:

NM’s Disgraceful Legacy of Child Hunger, Illiteracy and Well Being; Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Goal To Ending Child Hunger Within One Year

NM’s Disgraceful Legacy of Child Hunger, Illiteracy and Well Being; Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Goal To Ending Child Hunger Within One Year

The number one favorite photo opportunity of former Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named” over her entire 8 years as Governor of New Mexico, was reading children’s books to kids ages 6 to 10 in public schools. New Mexico has learned the real reason why the Republican Governor was reading to the children: the kids were not proficient enough to read their own books out loud to the Republican Governor. Last year in a District Court landmark case, the court ruled that the former Republican Governor’s failed education policies contributed to New Mexico’s failed public education system.

It is also likely all those New Mexico school children the Republican Governor was reading to could only hear the sound of their empty stomachs “grumbling” from being empty from hunger. New Mexico’s is ranked #1 in child hunger. New Mexico has a shameful legacy of child hunger, child illiteracy and child well being, but there are reasons for hope.

DISGRACEFUL LEGACY OF CHILD HUNGER: STATE RANKS #1 IN CHILD HUNGER

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. It has a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs scattered throughout the United States. Altogether, the network of organizations it has provides meals to more than 46 million people each year.

Every year, Feeding American conducts a survey known as the “Map the Meal Gap” annual report to identify the extent of at risk of childhood hunger and “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is defined as “inability of individuals or families to know where a portion of their food will come from at any given time.”

According to the just-released 2019 report from Feeding America, 24.1% of children and young teenagers age 18 and younger in New Mexico, or one of every four children, are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity making New Mexico’s rank dead last in the country. In 2018 the “Map the Meal Gap” also ranked New Mexico as dead last, and in the 2017, the state ranked 49th.

Arkansas is this year’s 49th place holder with 23.6% of children at risk for childhood hunger followed by Louisiana ranked 48th with 23% and Mississippi at 47th with 22.9%. According to the “Map the Meal Gap” report, the states with the fewest percentage of kids who are at risk of food hunger are North Dakota, ranked first with 9.8% of kids, followed by Massachusetts at 11.7%, New Hampshire with 12.3% and Minnesota with 12.6%.

What is striking is how pervasive hunger in New Mexico really is. The Map the Meal Gap reported that 324,000 people of all ages or 15.8% in the State of New Mexico are at risk of hunger. The report ranked the worst five counties in New Mexico with the highest percentage of child hunger and they are: McKinley County with 33.5%, Luna County with 33.4%; Cibola and Catron Counties each with 30.4%; and Sierra County 27.8%.

According to Roadrunner Food Bank spokeswoman, Sonya Warwick, the actual cause of the problem are many factors and she said:

“In some instances, that food insecurity results from adults in a family having unreliable seasonal jobs, or hourly workers suddenly finding that their hours were reduced, people who are unemployed or underemployed, those facing homelessness, domestic violence or health issues. … [Many people fall into the gray area] “where they’re still very poor, but make just over what might qualify them for federal food assistance programs.”

The biggest single factor causing New Mexico’s child hunger and “food insecurity” is the number of children who live in poverty. New Mexico is near the top of this list also. A spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking us 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1310364/new-mexico-again-leads-nation-in-child-hunger.html

DISGRACEFUL LEGACY OF CHILD ILLITERACY: STATE RANKS LAST IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

On January 22, 2019, the annual Quality Counts report by the national Education Week magazine was released. The study found that New Mexico is dead last or 50th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a score of 66.2, or a D when it comes to public education. Mississippi edged out New Mexico with a D+ this year, earning a score of 66.8. Nevada earned 65 or a D grade. The national studies say that a high poverty rate is hindering children.

Quality Counts, now in its 22nd year, reviews three components of each state’s education system: funding distribution, student achievement and what the report calls its “chance-for-success” index. New Mexico earned a D + in the chance for success index which measures an education system’s effect on children from preschool to college and career. The state showed slight gains in the number of children enrolled in early childhood education programs and a bump in its high school graduation rate over the year.

New Mexico earned its worst grade, a D-, in achievement. Scores on standardized tests in the state remain dismal, with just 19.7% of students in grades 3-11 showing proficiency in math and 28.6% proficiency in language arts on the most recent round of PARCC exams, administered by a consortium of states called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/report-n-m-ranked-next-to-last-for-public-education/article_19cf834f-9c1b-55dd-b863-762805fbc4b9.html

On July 20, 2018, a Santa Fe District Court ruled in the landmark case of “Yazzie-Martinez”, filed in 2014 by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleging that the state of New Mexico and the Republican Governor Administration was violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education in reading, writing and math. The lawsuit alleged a severe lack of state funding, resources and services to help students, particularly children from low-income families, students of color, including Native Americans, English-language learners and students with disabilities.

In the blistering District Court ruling against New Mexico’s Public Education System under the previous Republican Governor Administration, the District Court found “the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement.” According to the court ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners. 14.8 percent of students have disabilities, and 10.6 percent are Native American.

DISGRACEFUL LEGACY OF CHILDREN LAST IN CHILD WELL BEING

The Kids Count Data Book is published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks the status of children in the United States. The evaluation examines the percentage of children in poverty, the share of fourth graders proficient in reading and a variety of other factors such as economic well-being and health care. The last two reports have been particularly revealing as to how bad things became for New Mexico’s children under the previous Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”

2018 KIDS COUNT ANNUAL REPORT

In 2018, for the first time in five years, the 2018 Kids Count Data Book found a steep drop in New Mexico’s ranking for health care measures which previously was a bright spot for the state. In 2018, New Mexico fell last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of its children. According to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, 30% of New Mexico’s children were living in poverty in 2016, compared to 19% nationwide that year, the earliest figures available. In educational measures, the report says 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/report-new-mexico-ranks-last-in-child-well-being/article_0f6865fc-d34a-5050-9f74-21680e98a2a5.html

2019 KIDS COUNT ANNUAL REPORT

On June 17, 2019, the 30th edition of the Kids Count report was released. For the third time in seven years, New Mexico came in dead last out of 50 states for child well-being. The state was ranked 50th in 2016, again in 2017 and now in 2018 continuing in to 2019. According to the study, Louisiana was ranked 49th this year, bumping Mississippi up to 48th. Not at all surprising, it is New Mexico’s widespread poverty and lagging education among Native American and rural Hispanics that brings down the state’s overall rankings.

The Kids Count Data Book rankings are based on 16 indicators under four major domains:

1. Economic well-being
2. Education
3. Health and
4. Family and community.

ECONOMIC WELL BEING

Under the rating category for economic well-being indicators, the statistics break down as follows:

27% of New Mexico children are living in poverty which was a 3% improvement from last year.
28% of New Mexico children live in homes where an unusually large portion of family income goes toward housing costs, a 4% percentage point improvement.
36% of New Mexico children live in homes where parents lack secure employment which is virtually the same from last year.
10% of teens are neither working nor attending school, up 1% point from the previous year.

EDUCATION

Under education indicators, not much has changed from the 2019 report. The following statistics were reported:

56% of young children are not in school, a 1% point improvement.
75% of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, unchanged from the previous year.
80% of eighth graders are not proficient in math, unchanged from the previous year.
29% of high school students do not graduate on time, unchanged from the previous year.

HEALTH INDICATORS:

Under health indicators, the following statistics were reported:

9.5% of babies are born with low birth weight, a half percentage point worse than last year.
5% of children have no health insurance, unchanged from the previous year.
There are 32 child and teen deaths per 100,000 which is a 1 percentage point improvement.
6% of teens report abusing drugs or alcohol, a 1 percentage point improvement.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY INDICATORS

Under Family and Community Indicators the following statistics were reported:

45% of children live in single-parent families, a 3% increase from last year.
16% of children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, a 2% increase from last year.
24% of children live in homes in high poverty areas of the state, 2% worse than last year.
28 babies are born to teens per 1,000 births, a 2% point improvement over last year.

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM PROMISES TO END CHILD HUNGER

On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gave the keynote address at the annual “Kids Count Conference” organized by the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children and spoke to 500 people gathered for the conference.

During her key note address, Governor Lujan Grisham promised to end child hunger within one year by saying:

“We will look poverty in the face … It is an evil in our state, and it must be dealt a death blow. … Maybe that’s too high of a goal, I don’t care. … New Mexico needs to institute universal food security services and programs in this state and every single philanthropic partner has to be dedicated to making sure no child in this state will ever go hungry again, and I don’t care if it’s a universal snap program. … [It’s going to take] a “wrap around approach” [to fix problems created by the previous administration]. [The national Kids Count ranking] are not indicative, however, of who we are, and they are not indicative of what we are capable of. I unequivocally reject the notion that this is the way it will be because this is the way it has been. … Being 50th in anything is unacceptable … but when our children are at risk, it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach.”

Governor Lujan Grisham said she hopes to organize efforts by philanthropic groups and public agencies to get groceries to hungry New Mexicans, especially children and told the conference:

“Every single person can do something.”

During her keynote speech, Governor Lujan Grisham announced that the state’s Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) receives about 900 referrals a month in Albuquerque alone. According to the Governor, the referrals usually detail allegations of child abuse and neglect. The governor said the state only has enough people to investigate 200 of those case.
For news media coverage see the below links:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1333618/governor-poverty-an-evil-in-our-state.html

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/gov-lujan-grisham-aims-to-end-child-hunger-in-nm-within-a-year/5404065/

TANGIBLE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

Democrat Governor Lujan Grisham took office January 1, 2019. After just 7 months in office, much has been set in motion that if sustained will indeed will make the goal to end child hunger achievable and make sure New Mexico children will get a quality education.

EDUCATION BUDGET ENACTMENT

On March 15, 2019, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham finished her very first 60-day Legislative session as Governor. By all accounts, it was one of the most productive sessions in a long time when it comes to the future wellbeing of New Mexico children.

Financial stress over the budget process was greatly reduced from years past by a nearly $2 Billion in additional revenue generated by the Southern New Mexico oil boom and increased royalties filling the state coffers. The 2019 Legislature enacted over a $7 billion state budget. It was the largest budget ever enacted in state history. The legislature appropriated a total education budget at a whopping $3.2 Billion, 16% over last year’s budget, out of the total budget of $7 Billion.

Included in the budget is a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay. The massive infusion of funding to public education is the result of a District Court ruling that ruled the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The District Court found that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

Early childhood programs were given a major increase in funding. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers and school administrators will be given 6% pay raises or more with more money to hire more teachers.

IS MORE NEEDED?

Notwithstanding the 16% increase in education budget over last year’s budget given by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature, the plaintiffs in the landmark District Court case “Yazzie-Martinez” filed a status report on June 29, 2019 describing the state’s efforts to comply with the court order as not being sufficient. They say the state and lawmakers still have not done enough to ensure all students have access to an adequate education, a right guaranteed under the state constitution. You can review the full report at the below link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334649/filing-state-not-doing-enough-for-atrisk-students.html

PROTECTING CHILDREN

During her keynote address to the annual “Kids Count Conference” Governor Lujan Grisham told the audience that that the one thing that has kept her up at night is when she learned that the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) receives hundreds more referrals based on child abuse and neglect allegations than it has the staff to handle. According to the Governor, the problem is being addressed by expanded hiring efforts to boost staffing and other temporary measures.

Albuquerque and New Mexico for the last 4 years have been shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents. Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department. Lujan Grisham’s enacted budget that takes effect July 1, 2019 calls for an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed CYFD. Under the enacted budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division. During the Kid’s Count Conference, Lujan Grisham revealed that the state has held hiring events to recruit more CYFD employees and said:

“CYFD is boosting hiring in their protective services division. We did a rapid hire series of events statewide.”

DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD

A new “Early Childhood Department” was created by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The rankings and financial numbers relating to New Mexico’s children are depressing and staggering with some downright disgraceful:

** New Mexico ranks 50th for at risk of childhood in hunger and “food insecurity.”
** New Mexico is dead last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of children.
** 27% of New Mexico kids live in poverty, ranking New Mexico 49th on this list.
** 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.
** In 2019, the New Mexico legislature approve an education budget of $3.2 Billion out of a $7 billion budget, increasing the education budget by 16% over last year’s budget which still may not be enough.
**The 2019 New Mexico legislature approved $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department after 8 years of budget cuts.

When Governor Lujan Grisham told the Kids Count conference “Being 50th in anything is unacceptable … but when our children are at risk, it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach”, the truth is, ranking dead last in child well being, first in child hunger and last in education should make every New Mexican sick to our stomach. It is very difficult to read, let alone accept, that New Mexico ranks dead last the third year in a row for child well-being. With that in mind, the state now has only one direction to go now and that is up when it comes to the welfare of our children.

There is a direct correlation between a family’s overall income and child well being. When employment rates go up, child well being also goes up. After 10 years of the great recession, the New Mexico’s unemployment rate is appears to be finally coming down. The national unemployment rate in April, 2019 was 3.6 percent, down from 3.8 percent in March 2019 and 3.9 percent in April 2018. On April 17, 2019, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions reported that New Mexico’s adjusted unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, when in 2010, New Mexico’s unemployment rate was 8.1%. Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/190696/unemployment-rate-in-new-mexico-since-1992/

The 16% increase in the education budget, the creation of the Department of Early Childhood, the $36.5 million increase for the understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department which includes funding for 102 new social workers for the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division, and the decline in New Mexico’s unemployment rate, reflects that progress is indeed being made towards improving the future of New Mexico’s Children.

No doubt many will say Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s promise to end child hunger within one year was for show and not realistic. It is likely these are the same people who believed that the former Republican Governor reading to kids was not for show and that those kids could read their own books. At least real commitments have now been made. Governor Lujan Grisham no doubt realizes voters will hold her to her promise, but even if it takes her entire 4 years in office to end child hunger, not just the one year as promised, and improve New Mexico’s rankings in child wellbeing, so be it and her legacy will last generations.

It will take time before New Mexico’s public education system will get better and our child well being ranking made any better. For that reason, the debate over using a small portion of the state’s $17 billion Land Grant Permanent fund for early childhood education, care and intervention needs to continue. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham should continue her efforts to give major attention to use of the State’s Land Grant and Permanent Fund to finally solve many of our early childhood education, care and intervention problems.

With a little persistence and hard work, in 4 years, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham could be doing photo ops with kids ages 6 to 10 reading their children’s books to her while at the same time looking forward to the lunch being prepared in their school cafeteria. However, it will also take a real commitment by the New Mexico Legislature to realize the crisis is real and now is the time to act. Our kids’ lives, health, education and future depend on it.

You can read a related blog article at the below link:

Enacted NM $3.2 Billion Dollar Public Education Budget Claimed Not To Be Enough; $7.3 Million Shortfall For Pre-Kindergarten Programs Announced

Amputating Viable Healthy UNM Athletic Programs To Save Necrotic Programs; Time For UNM To Get Out Of Athletics; To Hell With Title IX Compliance.

On Sunday, June 30, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal did an “exit interview” article of Jeremy Fishbein, the highly successful coach of the UNM Soccer Coach team. You can read the full article at the below link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334832/fishbein-closes-the-door-on-unm-career.html?fbclid=IwAR3i_p7QeVez4hei4MbI_QNZ2WlQgzp3qfqG3k6u3s8nZH0AN4O-vX-MW5U

To quote the article:

“For more than 18 years, this relatively nondescript office in the heart of the University of New Mexico athletics complex on the South Campus was the hub of one of the top programs in school history. Although now there is but one unlabeled box and a generic statue sitting on an otherwise empty shelf, this is where Jeremy Fishbein built the Lobos from a nice little regional men’s soccer team into a national power with international scope.

But now, as June comes to a close, the program is no more, shuttered by a new administration not concerned so much with past successes as future revenue and Title IX challenges. The men’s soccer team is one of four sports cut, effective Monday [July 1, 2019] along with men’s and women’s skiing and beach volleyball.”

To repeat: “the hub of one of the top programs in school history … “Jeremy Fishbein built the Lobos from a nice little regional men’s soccer team into a national power with international scope” .

AMPUTATING SUCCESSFUL ATHLETIC PROGRAM TO SAVE NECROTIC PROGRAMS

On July 20, 2019, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted to eliminate four UNM Lobo sports teams under a plan they proclaimed would improve the ailing athletic department’s overall health. The UNM regents approved cutting men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing, and women’s beach volleyball. All three programs are considered 3 of the more successful programs at UNM, especially the UNM Soccer Program

Athletes, coaches, parents, alumni and other community members delivered impassioned pleas and some withering criticism of the proposal advanced by athletic director Eddie Nuñez and President Garnett Stokes. The two called the cuts a critical step toward addressing long-standing financial problems and newly surfaced Title IX compliance concerns. The regents voted 6-0 to adopt the recommendation.

The UNM Athletics Program missed budget eight times in a 10-year span and had accrued a $4.7 million deficit to the university’s reserves by the end of fiscal year 2017. Financial management issues also prompted investigations or other scrutiny from the state auditor, attorney general and higher education department.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1198470/unm-regents-approve-cutting-four-sports.html

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR CHARGED BY ATTORNEY GENERAL

On February 6, 2019, Former University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs, who left in 2017 amid questions over spending, was charged with fraud, money laundering and other felonies, state prosecutors said.

The attorney general’s office said in a criminal complaint that Krebs used his position “to pursue his private interest by planning and participating in a trip to Scotland that was paid for by the University of New Mexico using public money.”

Prosecutors said Krebs intentionally misappropriated public funds and used them to pay for him and other associates to be part of the Scotland golf tour. Krebs then circumvented university policy and signed a contract committing the school to pay up to $250,000.

For more see:

https://www.denverpost.com/2019/02/06/paul-krebs-new-mexico-fraud-charge/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

During the last 30 years, soccer in Albuquerque has flourished and excelled in Albuquerque, especially in grade schools, high schools and pre school programs. Today, it is very common to find grown men in their 30s who played soccer in grade school, mid- school and high school and who play in city adult leagues.

Soccer is now part of the city’s fabric with programs for children, adolescence and young adults. Soccer programs throughout the city have proven far more important and more inclusive for Albuquerque athletes than football programs could even hope to imagine.

Thank you UNM Board of Regents for pouring millions of dollars down failed athletic programs such as UNM Football that for decades has been a black-hole of failure hoping for a winning season that has never materialized for decades.

Now is the time for the University of New Mexico Board of Regents to stop pouring millions of dollars of taxpayer money down failed athletic programs and dedicate itself to delivering quality college education. To hell with Title IX compliance.