*URGENT* Don’t let education access be limited by age in New Mexico!

We just sent this email out to all our members. Please follow the links below and contact your legislator NOW! Dear Friend,

Today, a major piece of education legislation is being heard at the Roundhouse. HB 5 and companion bill SB 1, aim to make sweeping changes to the way public education is funding in New Mexico. These bills make significant strides toward improving our public education system particularly after years of our schools being neglected by those in power.

Six years of Skandera/Martinez “Bold Education Reform”, NM falls to last in education in US

Five years after Susana Martinez and Hanna Skandera promised New Mexicans they would bring “bold education reform” (see the press release here) to New Mexico, the results are in. In the 2016 Kids Count report released today by NM Voices for Children, New Mexico fell to the bottom of the list – 50th in the nation – in education and child poverty. For more than a decade, Voices for Children and the Annie E. Casey Foundation have tracked various social metrics measuring child wellbeing in every state in the country. While child wellbeing rankings has improved slightly over the past decades, much of that progress has been outshined by other states who have made faster and more impactful progress than New Mexico. Other issues, including access to healthcare, have improved thanks to Medicaid expansion, for example.

*Update on Las Cruces school bus drivers*

Las Cruces Public Schools Withdraws Restraining Order against Union Bus Drivers
From AFT press release

April8, 2016

American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly and Las Cruces Transportation Federation #6341 President Marcos Torres released the following statement:

“It is welcome news that the Las Cruces Public Schools Board has voluntarily withdrawn its motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent a strike by the members of LCTF #6341. In addition to withdrawing its motion, the LCPS Board has also vacated its temporary restraining order, and the courts have dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. This is a victory for the rights of our members and organized labor across New Mexico. The right to strike over labor disputes is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act, and we feel that any lawsuit attempting to curtail this right represents a grave injustice to our ability to negotiate safer conditions for our students and better policies for STS-NM employees. We renew our call for parents, community members, and the Las Cruces Public Schools Board to continue to pressure STS-NM to improve its policies on safety for our students and to create policies which attract and retain the best equipment operators possible.

[UPDATED] Las Cruces school bus drivers striking? Not so fast.

[UPDATED on 4/6/16. Update at bottom of post.]

Members of Las Cruces Transportation Federation Local 6341 voted to strike this week after STS-NM, a private school bus company contracted by the Las Cruces Public Schools, failed to agree to needed changes to drivers’ contracts. But late Thursday afternoon a Las Cruces district Judge issued a temporary restraining order against the union and ordered all drivers to work until at least April 12. Drivers are not currently offered sick leave, haven’t seen a pay raise in years, and often drive overcrowded buses which threaten student and driver safety. LCPS Superintendent Stan Rounds sought the injunction, citing concerns about kids not being able to get to school, but didn’t seem worried about them crowding into over-packed buses with drivers who may be ill but can’t afford to stay home from work.

Supporters of local control defend Cruces school board against PED overreach

Tuesday night the Las Cruces Public Schools board of directors met for work and ProgressNow NM was there. It was the first meeting since Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera sent a scathing letter threatening a state takeover of the board last week. Tuesday’s meeting was full of supporters of the LCPS board, many wearing stickers that said, “I support local control.”

That’s feeling of local teachers, administers, parents and even students who feel that the PED secretary’s heavy-handed, top-down policies take needed control away from local schools. At points the audience applauded comments from the board and fellow attendees in calling PED’s accusations baseless and an intrusion into local matters. From the Las Cruces Sun-News:

The board room at the LCPS Administration Building was nearly full Tuesday, filled mostly with district employees, union representatives and members of the community who had shown up to express their support for the beleaguered board.

Skandera threatens Las Cruces School Board, again

Hanna Skandera is upset. She sent a lengthy letter to the Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Directors yesterday in which she voiced concerns over how the board conducted some of their meetings last year and certain actions that may have been “in direct defiance” of directives issued from the PED. While LCPS certainly has a long history of problems complying with the state’s open meetings act, the letter comes off as personal and defensive. Also, the first charge over the board directing Superintendent Stan Rounds to ignore directives is off base and was a matter of much controversy last year. Last year, Skandera bullied LCPS into submission and forced the board to rescind their decision that protected teachers’ sick days from being included in end-of-year evaluations.

Not just another walk in the PARCC

Well well well. It appears that Governor Susana Martinez’s chosen one has become the Chair of the much-maligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC. Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera was made chair of the overseeing board sometime late last year, although it doesn’t appear she or anyone else wanted to make that very public. Probably for good reason. The multi-state test has received heaps of criticism here in New Mexico and in other states for its top down approach and increased time away from instruction, with more than half of the states that originally planned on implementing having since dropped the test altogether.

State: PED “erroneously reported” success with Gov’s keystone child reading initiative

The state’s bi-partisan budget analysts report that the State’s Public Education Department is fudging the numbers on the governor’s keystone early education program ahead of a request for more money in the upcoming year’s budget. When the Reads to Lead program was first launched in 2011, PED touted the $8.5 million expenditure as their keystone early education program and featured it prominently in its July 2012 PED newsletter, alongside pictures of Gov. Martinez reading to children at schools across New Mexico. She made it a central piece of her 2012 State of the State address, having appeared at 38 schools to read with students, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Last year, the department’s own report on the program (p.20) says, “since the implementation of Reads to Lead in 2012, approximately 6,000 educator, administrator, and reading coach participants have received professional development to assist struggling readers.” Those numbers have led PED to request larger and larger appropriations for the program each year.