Senate passes gas tax for road fund, but governor vows veto

The New Mexico Senate, hoping to improve state roads and rebuild cash reserves, approved a bill Thursday that would increase the state gasoline tax for the first time in more than 20 years. But the bill has little chance of becoming law. “If it reaches the governor’s desk, she will veto it,” said Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. An override of Martinez’s veto is unlikely because the tax bill received support from only three of the Senate’s 16 Republicans. The measure, Senate Bill 95, would raise about $180 million annually through a range of taxes and fees.

Senate passes NCLB overhaul with NM Senators’ support

Both New Mexico senators voted in favor of a No Child Left Behind replacement Wednesday, following unanimous support last week on the same bill from the state’s Congressional delegation. Democrats and teachers unions have widely praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for taking away federal oversight of accountability from standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government could withhold money from schools that scored low on the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which were made from standardized test scores. The new bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week, leaves this type of accountability measures to the states. “It gives states the decision on high stakes testing, which unfortunately in our state the governor wants,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said in an interview.

State ordered to pay legal fees to union in open records case

A Santa Fe district judge’s ruling on Wednesday afternoon awarded an education group additional money in a lawsuit against the state’s Public Education Department. The ruling comes after First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton awarded damages to National Education Association New Mexico (NEA-NM) after the group accused PED of violating the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA. In court on Wednesday, Singleton awarded the group money for legal fees, totaling $14,071.31 according to a press release by NEA-NM following the decision. In a press release sent out before the hearing, NEA said the judge’s determination would set a precedent on who is actually able to sue over public records violations. “Is our government meant to be only ‘open’ for the wealthy who can afford to pay their own legal expenses to obtain Court rulings against agencies who fail to comply with the Inspection of Public Records Act?” NEA-NM President Betty Paterson asked.

Lawyers, time and money: How to get public records

In March of 2015, the Albuquerque Journal published a handful of letters sent to New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera by high school students from around the state. The columnist who wrote the article wrote that she filed a records request and obtained the letters. The letters that were published had glaring mistakes. Some of the excerpts highlighted in the UpFront column:
“we are not prepared for it we will fail it and kids that are depending on this test to pass will be disappointed in them self’s”
“I mean we can barely pass the SBA. We’re 50th in the state when it comes to education.

Needed: Teachers who can start tomorrow

Some school districts are still facing a shortage of teachers just days before the start of the new school year. Both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools have had a deficit of teachers in general as well as special education. Teacher’s unions as well as a representative of APS admitted that part of the problem may stem from a higher demand on teachers and inadequate compensation. With most schools in the state preparing to begin classes in a matter of days, New Mexico Political Report reached out to three large school districts in New Mexico to find out how many positions are still vacant. Last month APS held a job fair in order to fill teacher positions.

Judge rules PED violated state open records law

A Santa Fe district court judge handed down fines to the state’s Public Education Department Thursday afternoon for failing to properly respond to public records requests from a teachers’ union. The state must pay nearly $500, plus attorneys fees, for failing to abide by the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The main contention was the union’s records request centered around National Education Association New Mexico (NEA) attorney Jerry Todd Wertheim said was “the core of public debate over the teacher evaluation system.” The union asked for all public documents associated with a claim often repeated by PED Secretary Hanna Skandera and others over the years—that the previous state teacher evaluation system found more than 99 percent of the state’s teachers competent. They said this showed it was not an effective evaluation.