NM Shows Slight Improvement, Some Decline in 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book


State ranking moves from 50th to 49th over the year; change insignificant


ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico moved up from the bottom ranking of 50th in the 2013 national KIDS COUNT rankings to 49th in child well-being this year in the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book.  While improvement was made from the 2013 to 2014 editions of the report in some child well-being indicators—such as child poverty (dropped from 31 percent to 29 percent), high school graduation rates (rose from 67 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2012) and our teen birth rate (dropped from 53 births per 1,000 female teens to 47 per 1,000)—others declined.


Key child well-being indicators that declined from the 2013 data report to this year’s report include the percent of children living in single-parent families (increased from 43 percent to 44 percent), the rate of children living in high-poverty areas (increased from 21 percent to 22 percent), and the percentage of eighth graders who are not proficient in math (increased from 76 percent to 77 percent).


“Although our ranking has slightly improved, there is still much work to be done to improve children’s ability to thrive in the state. It’s a tiny step forward, but only if we can keep up the positive momentum of change,” said Dr. Veronica C. García, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which runs the KIDS COUNT program in New Mexico. “The fact that New Mexico has always been in the bottom ten states—and this year in the bottom five states—in  terms of child well-being is what’s concerning. In other words, we need to do better by our children—much, much better.”


This is the 25th year the Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the KIDS COUNT Data Book along with its rankings of the 50 states. The highest New Mexico has ever ranked was 40th in 1995. States are ranked according to how well children fare in 16 indicators that have an impact on children’s ability to succeed in life. This include rates of children without health insurance, the percentage of children whose parents do not have secure employment or high school diplomas, fourth grade reading proficiency rates, and the like.


“If we continue to fail to address the well-being of our children in a comprehensive and effective way, New Mexico will maintain its rank at the bottom of the heap,” said Dr. García. “New Mexico’s future is being formed today. It is shaped by whether all our children have access to the opportunities that will put—and keep—them on the path to success. We know what policies will move the needle. We know, for example, that high-quality early childhood care and learning programs provide a strong, positive basis for children’s long-term health, academic and employment success. We know that the return on this kind of investment far out-performs any other later investments we might make. The only question is whether we are willing to commit to making the investments,” she added.


The 2014 edition of the Data Book includes a look at some longer-term trends in the data both at the state and national levels. While, in general, New Mexico has followed the national trend in most KIDS COUNT indicators, such as the teen birth rate (which has declined over the past 25 years) and percent of children living in single-parent homes (which has increased over that time frame), there are two notable exceptions.


For one, since 1992, the rate of fourth grade reading proficiency—a basic indicator of students’ ability to succeed in education—has risen in all states except New Mexico and North Dakota. North Dakota’s rates, however, have been consistently higher than New Mexico’s in this measure. Also, though the percentage of teens 16-19 who are not working and not in school improved in the U.S. over this time period, the rate has gotten worse in New Mexico.


After New Mexico’s drop to 50th last year, NM Voices released NM KIDS are COUNTing on Us: A Policy Agenda for a Better New Mexico, which included policy recommendations for addressing all 16 of the indicators of child well-being in a comprehensive way. The child advocacy group released an updated policy agenda last month that includes several new recommendations. It also notes whether recommended policies were addressed during the last legislative session.



The updated NM KIDS are COUNTing on Us policy agenda is available here: http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/KIDS-COUNTing-policy-agenda-June-2014-update-web.pdf


The Day This Land Was Our Land

Posted May 26, 2014

Thomas Wark
The Organ Mountains overlooking my home town, Las Cruces, N.M., have the absolute capacity to mesmerize. They did so the first time I laid eyes upon them two decades ago. They did so again  a few days ago, when something very good happened in Barack Obama’s United States.
We celebrated the designation of these mountains by Mr. Obama as the nation’s newest National Monument, embracing not just the Organs but also their neighboring desert, lesser peaks, volcanic holes in  what was once a prehistoric sea, canyons rich with the art and sacred relics of earlier native civilizations—nearly 500,000 acres of stark natural beauty and wonder.
Most of the hundreds gathered on a high school soccer field with a stunning view of the Organs had fought for a decade or more for a more protected status for these public lands. As waves of new development swept over the area, their struggle became more urgent, and took on the classic form of public discourse in our divided nation. On one side. petitioning for monument status, were The People — hikers, picture-shooters, scholars, horsemen, hunters, scientists, bird-watchers, petroglyph and pictograph admirers, wildlife fanciers, tribal councils and native American culture preservers, a spectrum of ordinary Americans as wide and deep as our rainbow race itself.  On the other side, the money people: makers of off-road machines, ranchers whose hooved locusts graze our lands for pittance fees, a congressman wedded to the interests of oil and gas extractors who made him rich, NRA kooks who think this natural paradise is theirs to shoot up at will,Tea Party nuts accusing the federal government of stealing land it already owned.
One would think that protecting something so beautiful, so sacred, so valued by so many would be a simple task in a democratic nation.  But it wasn’t. Money, greed and corruption wield vast power in this country against even the most noble of goals. Bill after bill to protect the lands languished in Congress.
Finally, last Wednesday, Mr. Obama invoked his powers under an Antiquities Act signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago. He proclaimed the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area of southern New Mexico to be a National Monument.
Only two days later, on a grassy field, where the spring sun and shifting clouds made the Organs dance to the wind’s song, The People gathered for their brief, shining Camelot moment.    A native American tribal leader invoked blessings upon them and the sacred lands they came to celebrate. Leaders — three U.S. senators, the Secretary of the Interior, a mayor, state legislators, commissioners, councilors, heads of large and small organizations — thanked themselves and the President for the gift of perpetuity for our magnificent lands, but unanimously decreed that the greatest gratitude should go to those who truly brought it about — The People.
There were tents with cold drinks and hot New Mexican food. A mariachi band with a tireless tenor and a trumpeter who improvised a full octave higher than the score. A fine high school choir singing real good the perfect song for the occasion, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” There was, my companion said, “a lot of love out there today.”
In our  moment, I felt fleetingly the sense of serene excitement I had when the nation elected its first black President, the man I thought would lead our country to a new birth of freedom, who would launch it on a path to equality, with truth and justice for all.
Barack Obama failed terribly in the great tasks we imagined for him.  But just a few days ago he did a good thing. For that brief shining Camelot moment, this land was my land.


Seed share, harvest share

Weed Pulling Party MVM Farm 2653 Snow Rd, Mesilla Saturday, August 2nd 8:00 – 10:00 am Our vegetables are doing great, the farm is lush and green and growing, growing, growing! BUT SO ARE OUR WEEDS! Please join us August 2nd. We are looking for some people to “pull” together!

Harvest Share by Better Future Foods Community Garden at Spruce and San Pedro, Las Cruces Sunday, August 3rd 4:00 pm All items that are freshly picked, home made, or preserved (canned, dried, frozen, etc) are welcome. The RSVP page can be found at this link:  http://www.betterfuturefood.com/harvest-share-sign-up/  Everyone should RSVP so that we don’t have 20 people showing up to swap zucchini. Also, this lets us know how many people we should “pack” items for.  I also want to encourage everyone to bring their own “packing” materials (like tupperware) in order to minimize the use of plastic bags. Feed ‘n Seed Mountain View Market Co-op in the Cafe Tuesday, August 26th 5:30 – 7:30 pm Learn how to save seeds and taste test heirloom fruits and vegetables.

During this informal workshop, we will discuss and demonstrate the basic process of saving your own seeds, including planting, selection, harvest, cleaning, and storage. We will process seeds from tomatoes, chiles, squash, lettuce, melons, and cucumbers.

If you can, bring some of your harvest to show off during Veggie Show-n-tell. We will use these in the tasting and seed processing demo.

Enjoy an optional potluck with fellow growers. Please bring some food to share if you would like to participate. Free event.



NMSU chemical engineering freshmen designs water filter

New Mexico State University chemical engineering sophomore Joshua Gomez designed and developed water filters that will be installed in houses and schools in Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Puerto Palomas is located just south of Columbus, New Mexico. Water supplies in both Palomas and Columbus are drawn from the same arsenic- and fluoride-contaminated aquifer. While Columbus has installed a reverse osmosis system to provide all residents clean water, Palomas’ water supply is only disinfected with chlorine.

The level of arsenic and fluoride contaminating the water supply is toxic to the people who drink the water over a long period of time. While there are water purifiers available to city residents, they only purify the water by the gallon.

With the direction of Shuguang Deng, NMSU chemical engineering professor, Gomez developed a combination of activated alumina and activated carbon to create a filter that reduces the amount of arsenic and fluoride levels in the water. Gomez said that the activated alumina and carbon also serve to improve the water’s taste.

“These filters are implemented under the sink in households and schools,” Gomez said. “People who ask for it – and those are the people who really need it – are given the filters.”

Gomez said he has traveled to Mexico multiple times during the spring semester. He taught members of Border Partners, a nonprofit in the area, how to build and install the filters, which they are doing now in Palomas.

Gomez hopes that 30 to 100 more filters can be installed in Palomas. Several workshops have been held in Palomas to educate residents and officials about water quality, health risks and how the filters will improve the water.


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    The Day This Land Was Our Land

    Posted May 26, 2014 Thomas Wark The Organ Mountains overlooking my home town, Las Cruces, N.M., have the absolute capacity to mesmerize. They did so the first... Read more »

    June 15, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    Obama to proclaim Organ Mountains a National Monument

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    July 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment


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