Governor Susana Martinez announced new state guidelines for teacher evaluations last Sunday. The changes were based on recommendations given by Teach Plus New Mexico Policy Fellows, who polled over 1,000 New Mexico teachers last year. The new system increased the number of sick days allowed before penalties are incurred from three to six. It also lessened the weight of student achievement in teacher performance assessment from 50 percent to 35 percent. But despite the governor's claim that the policy change was designed by educators, a number of teachers have voiced disappointment with the new rules. The American Federation of Teachers New Mexico released a statement following the announcement that called the system “unsound” and said the new guidelines were “another example of Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary Hanna Skandera’s continued contempt for the tens of thousands of New Mexico’s hardworking public educators.” Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, told the Albuquerque Journal that high-performing states do not use student performance or sick time penalties in their evaluations. The changes came about following a bill that would have extended teachers' allowed sick leave time without penalty to 10 days. The bill was vetoed by Martinez. The new guidelines will be used for evaluations starting this August. The policy is expected to remain in place for at least five years.
Highest Rate of Medicaid Births Found in N.M.
According to a nationwide survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72 percent of births in New Mexico in 2015 were paid for by Medicaid, the highest rate in the nation. Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance program offered to low-income families, disabled people and others. Nearly 800,000 New Mexicans were enrolled in the program as of December 2016. The survey gathered its data from state Medicaid directors, who were asked to report on the most recent 12-month period for which data were available. According to the survey, Medicaid paid for about 47 percent of all births nationwide on average. Arkansas ranked second with 67 percent, and Louisiana was third with 65 percent.
Residents Warned of Water Shortages
State officials are projecting regional water shortages across New Mexico over the next few years, with the exception of the San Juan Basin in the northwestern portion of the state. Managers of the state’s water planning districts warned residents this week that current plans project drinking and irrigation water shortages based on existing rights, traditional uses, population estimates, economic trends and community development. According to them, the state’s most populated area, the Middle Rio Grande Valley, will receive only half the region's demand from river and groundwater pumping in drought years. The state suffered a record-breaking drought that peaked in 2014 and was the driest and hottest period in over a century.