November 3, 2015

Report: Education in NM improving, poverty getting worse

A report found that New Mexico is improving in several areas of education and the economy but struggles in child hunger and poverty.

The 2015 New Mexico Progress Report, which was put together by New Mexico First, looked at four overall areas: Education, health, economy and water.

Of those, New Mexico has seen improvement in some areas, while it is getting worse in others. While the state is seeing gains in household income and unemployment, poverty and child hunger continue to get worse.

Still, New Mexico First President Heather Balas was optimistic about New Mexico’s direction.

“New Mexico is changing, and, in many ways for the better,” Balas said in a blog post announcing the results. “However, we still have much work to do in all major areas addressed by this report including education, health, economy and water.”

Peter Winograd, who chaired the report’s advisory committee and is retired from the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research, agreed with Balas.

“We see that more young children are receiving quality early childhood education, entrepreneurship and health insurance are on the rise, and we are actively protecting water resources,” Balas said. “However, our people are getting poorer, and our need for more mental health and physical health care professionals is profound.”

Pre-kindergarten enrollment gets a thumbs up from the report, noting that those who are enrolled in the programs are less likely to repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school.

High school graduation is holding steady, according to the report. New Mexico remains behind neighboring states on high school education and the gaps in graduation rate by ethnicity have not closed in recent years.

When it comes to hunger, the report notes a problem in tribal and rural areas of the state.

In many areas when it comes to water issues, a key issue in a desert state like New Mexico, the state is seeing improvements. But one glaring break from that trend is in dams with safety deficiencies.

“Many dams in New Mexico are old and in need of maintenance and repair,” the report says. Out of the 300 dams regulated by the State Engineer’s Dam Safety Bureau, ” 152 are considered ‘high hazard potential dams,’ meaning that failure of the dam could result in a loss of human life,” the report says.

As of 2013, 90 of these high hazard potential dams were in poor or unsatisfactory conditions.

2015 New Mexico Progress Report