NM KIDS COUNT Report: State Makes Little Progress on Child Well-Being


State Should Take a Two-Generation Approach to Solving Problems


ALBUQUERQUE—While New Mexico ranking rose slightly from 50th in 2013 to 49th in 2014 in the national KIDS COUNT rankings of child well-being, state policy makers not have managed to make much progress toward improving how well the state cares for its kids. The KIDS COUNT program measures 16 indicators of child well-being, and New Mexico saw improvement in just five of those. Worse, child poverty—a main factor in poor outcomes—actually increased (from 28 percent to 31 percent), even as it decreased in most of the rest of the nation.


These trends are tracked in the 2014 KIDS COUNT in New Mexico data book, being released today by New Mexico Voices for Children. The annual state KIDS COUNT report, which includes the most recent data on child well-being status, such as teen birth rates, preschool enrollment, and health insurance coverage—along with policy recommendations—makes it clear that state lawmakers should make it a priority to address the needs of all children by supporting a holistic, coordinated and two-generation approach that serves both children and their families.


“The fact that we’ve seen a deterioration in key indicators—child poverty, children living in high-poverty areas, children living in single-parent families, and reading and math proficiency scores, for example—shows us the importance of creating and taking action on a comprehensive plan to make New Mexico a better place for working families and their children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices, which runs the KIDS COUNT program in New Mexico. “We recognize that the data change over one year does not provide a trend, but it is still concerning that some of our worst child well-being outcomes continue to decline.”


The data book talks about the need to take a two-generation approach to reducing child poverty. Such an approach would mean coordinating services for children—such as health care, food benefits, and early care and education—with services that give their parents tools to improve the family’s economic situation. These would include programs that help parents gain more education and job training that also take child care needs into consideration.


“When children have a strong start in the very early years—from zero to five—they are much more likely to do well throughout school and life, so we need to increase our investments in those years. And since children grow up in families, we also need to ensure that all parents and guardians have the tools they need to be successful. That’s the way to make lasting progress, break the cycle of poverty, have an educated workforce, a strong economy and improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans,” she added.


As it did last year, the data book includes a section that tracks changes in the 16 indicators that are used in the national KIDS COUNT data book, which is released every summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This section also looks at legislation that has recently been enacted that aims to address these problems and presents data at the county level where available.


“In short, we must take bold action to mitigate the impacts of poverty on our children,” said Dr. Garcia. “The future of our state is being decided today and will be balanced on the investments we make—or fail to make—in our children.”


The data book is available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-NM-Kids-Count-data-book.pdf


More data on child and family well-being are available at the state, county, school district, and tribal levels at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#NM


Susana’s Trojan Horse

Emanuele Corso

Here we go again, more of the relentless pursuit of public education, public school teachers and the future of New Mexico’s children. The governor’s empty meme about ending social promotion is intended to appeal to an audience that knows nothing about teaching and learning. Holding kids back is not educating them — it is humiliating them and nothing more.  Public humiliation of children is not, and never was, a proper or true pedagogical method. Although devoid of valid educational content, third-grade retention is a useful Trojan Horse. And, like that legendary ruse, it is hollow and full of danger. Grade retention creates more resentment than any positive educational outcome; it is simply antedeluvian, so why do it? If reading by third grade is some sort of holy grail, and there is no objective proof that it is, then the proper response is to determine why a kid isn’t learning and deal with that. Grade levels are arbitrary; they are merely inventions for administrative convenience. Everyone, including the governor and her nominee for secretary of Education, learns at her own rate—obviously a bit slowly in some cases, perhaps, but with proper pedagogy she can learn.

This war on education has nothing to do with improving public schools. It has only one objective—privatization. No Child Left Behind, Common Core, charter schools, one Trojan Horse after another. Test this, test that, tests and more tests to no end but to prove public schools are failing. Failing what? Failing to put money in the pockets of the so-called reformers like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch boys. It is nothing less than creating a crisis and offering a solution to it; exactly like starting a fire, pretending to be putting it out, and attracting a lot of public attention. What better way to put wannabe presidential hopefuls into the public eye than to label them education reformers?

While it is true public education could stand thorough and thoughtful discussion, that doesn’t justify the perfidy expressed by today’s self-identifying Republican reformers. The motives, as separate from objectives are, first and foremost, profit and secondly, self-promotion. The desired objective: social control by way of dumbing down the public. If you can create a population with few or weak critical thinking skills, they become easy to manipulate.  How better to achieve this than by controlling public education and turning it into an assembly line producing the compliant “good” citizens you need? Does this seem totally paranoid to you? Think again. Fox “News” is a good example of this manipulation.

Certainly a well-educated, thoughtful citizenry would not be willing to go along easily with destroying Social Security, health care, public safety, safe food and safe consumer products. A thoughtful, activist population is anathema to the relentless quest for profit and accumulated wealth. Consider that the richest of the rich already pay little or no taxes while the middle-class bears the burden. Wealthy individuals and corporations can stash their wealth off-shore because they are “smarter” than the general public and they have the best tax advisers money can buy. In their view, only suckers pay taxes. And, if you can really dumb people down they won’t even notice they are being used as lackeys. Make sure they can buy (on credit) snowmobiles, motor homes, huge screen TVs, one new gadget after another that no one needs; keep them distracted, keep them entertained, and they will be willing happy campers. Temporarily lower gasoline prices and people will run out to buy large gas-guzzling pickup trucks. Stimulus and response. The drones will keep making their installment payments, and the cash will flow into offshore accounts. If people can’t make their payments, repossess the goodies and sell them to someone else. It’s all good.

Once the “reformers” have their tentacles wrapped firmly around whatever it is they want, the chances of the public regaining it are slim to none. That includes public education, because the ultimate objective is privatization and nothing to do with educating children. While billionaires are drooling behind the curtains providing campaign funds, their shameless lackeys are out beating the drums and promoting themselves on the backs of children as educational reformers. It doesn’t take much, really, a little vigorish here and there, a thousand here a thousand there, and soon it’s real money—but peanuts, actually, compared to the possible return-on-investment. Schools, teachers, national education organizations have been forced into a rear-guard war against a monster machine that intends to roll over them in the endless quest for profit on the one hand and self-promotion on the other. Never mind the consequences for the American social contract (or what’s left of it) .

Public education is vulnerable. Governors and other politicians with presidential ambitions have put schools in a free-fire zone where nothing is logical or sacred. Politicians with no background or experience as educators use issues like third-grade retention to draw attention to themselves. The Trojan Horses are being rolled through the gates. Stop them now or lose public education.


NMSU’’s Doña Ana County Cooperative Extension Service Office offers presentation on Affordable Care Act

This year’’s open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act ends soon. For help in navigating the ins and outs, New Mexico State University’’s Doña Ana County Cooperative Extension Service Office will host a presentation on the Affordable Care Act from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Doña Ana Cooperative Extension Service Office, 530 N. Church St. in Las Cruces.

“As a result of the Affordable Care Act, many people are signing up for health insurance plans, and that process can be confusing and overwhelming,” said Karim Martinez, an Extension home economist at the Doña Ana County Cooperative Extension Service Office. “This presentation can reduce that stress by offering basic information on how to enroll in a plan and where to go for help enrolling.”

The presentation will cover the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange and New Mexico Medicaid expansion. Participants will find out what’’s needed to enroll in a health insurance plan and receive a list of community resources.

The presentation is a collaborative effort, developed by a Doña Ana County Health Alliance multi-agency work group. The group included the New Mexico Primary Care Association and other health and insurance professionals.

To register, call the Doña Ana County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 575-525-6649 or email donaana@nmsu.edu.



Reward offered for info on party responsible for dumping coyotes—but not for killing them

Land Commissioner Offers $1000 Reward

Newly elected NM Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn, a rancher, was greeted on his first day in office with a front page story about 39 coyotes dumped on state trust land on Las Cruces’ west mesa. The coyotes were the victims of a killing contest held the weekend before Christmas. Dunn has responded by offering a $1000 reward of his own money for information about the person or group responsible for dumping the animals (but not for killing them–wildlife killing contests are legal in New Mexico, but dumping on state trust land is not!). A Las Cruces group called New Mexico Desert Dogs has admitted holding the contest, but claims that a “private party” dumped the carcasses.

Las Cruces Sun-News Editorial Gets it Right

Kudos to the Las Cruces Sun-News for adding its voice to those calling for legislation to ban wildlife killing contests in New Mexico. In an editorial published in yesterday’s paper, the editors wrote: “When that lack of protection [for coyotes] leads to senseless slaughter, as was seen last week, it’s time to consider changing the law.” The Sun-News joins with New Mexico’s other two major newspapers, the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican, which have previously editorialized for an end to killing contests.

Slot Canyons and Waterfalls of New Mexico—Feb. 10

We’ve got a great line up of Second Tuesday monthly programs lined up at SWEC for 2015, starting with a slideshow/talk by Doug Scott on the slot canyons and waterfalls of New Mexico, on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 7 pm. Doug has been adventuring in New Mexico since the 1970s (he was the first commercial whitewater outfitter in NM) and has published several books on New Mexico waterfalls, which will be available for purchase and signing. You won’t want to miss this talk!


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