FEMA ordered $10.2 million in COVID-19 testing kits it’s now warning states not to use

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has warned states not to use COVID-19 testing supplies it bought under a $10.2 million contract after a ProPublica investigation last week showed the vendor was providing contaminated and unusable mini soda bottles. A FEMA spokeswoman said the agency is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze test tubes filled with saline and sold to the government by Fillakit LLC, whose warehouse is near Houston. “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend this media not be used at this time,” spokeswoman Alex Bruner said.

DOH set to finalize rules on cannabis consumption areas, new testing standards

New Mexico is one step closer to establishing sanctioned, legal areas for medical cannabis patients to use their medicine. 

The Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program held a public hearing Thursday to hear comments from the public regarding department rule changes. Those changes include higher testing standards for cannabis producers and manufacturers, reciprocity for medical cannabis patients already enrolled in a medical program in another state and consumption areas. 

Most comments from the public were about the testing standards, but some medical cannabis patients said they would like to see more leniency on who can open a consumption area and where they can open it. 

Erica Rowland, a founding member of the Albuquerque-based cannabis producer Seven Clover, said the opportunity to open a consumption area should not be limited to those who already produced the cannabis. 

“Consumption areas should not be limited to [Licensed Non Profit Producers],” Rowland said. 

But because the state’s cannabis law is specifically written and leaves little room for interpretation, the Legislature would need to act to change consumption area requirements. After changes made during the 2019 legislative session, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act allows for consumption areas, but requires that they are owned and operated by a Licensed Non Profit Producer, effectively barring someone from starting a new business solely for cannabis consumption. 

The statute, not the proposed rule change, also requires that anyone consuming cannabis at a consumption area have a safe ride home. It’s still unclear who would be held liable for someone who leaves a consumption area and drives themselves. Medical Cannabis Program Director Dominick Zurlo said that is more of a legal question and out of the DOH’s purview. 

“One of the big issues of course is New Mexico is one of the states that has a huge issue with DUIs and we want to ensure people are able to get home safely,” Zurlo said.

Public Education Department chose to deceive

Charles Goodmacher is the government and media relations director for NEA-New Mexico
Every New Mexico student deserves the opportunity for an education led by high-quality teachers. The system brought in when the Public Education Department threw out the old one is doing the opposite – driving great teachers away and limiting the time available for the teachers who remain to provide a high quality, well-rounded education as they sacrifice that to a test-driven standardized curriculum. New Mexico students are being short-changed by the new evaluation system implemented by Secretary Hanna Skandera, based on the false assertion that 99.8 percent of teachers were evaluated as satisfactory under the prior evaluation system. This figure was stated again and again, before legislative committees and to the media — so much so it became accepted as the truth as shown in these May 16 and July 26, 2014 Albuquerque Journal articles and this KRQE story on the new system. They used that political claim to impose their system, which unfairly subjects students to over-testing and thereby short changes students with an emphasis on only those subjects that are easily tested.

Test Anxiety (a poem)

Test Anxiety by Hakim Bellamy
You know,they might be rightabout these tests. I mean,they’ve never slept with students.Never called out sick.Never went on strike. The test doesn’t gettoo attached to the students.Never shows uplate for work.Never forgets a student’s name.Never tells inappropriate jokesor shows a moviewhen it doesn’t feel like testing. The test always has the right answer,but it never says the right thing. The test never bringsanything to the faculty potluck.Never stays late to helpstudents who are having a hard time.

Parents Have the Right to Opt Their Children Out of Standardized Testing | by Sen. Howie Morales

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]HOWIE MORALES is a Democratic state senator from Catron, Grant and Socorro Counties. He is an educator, member of the Senate Education committee, and former candidate for governor. [/box]

There is a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (PARCC) that will be administered to students from grades 3-11 this spring. I want to clarify the options parents have in deciding to opt their children out of taking this test. Many of you have expressed concern and, indeed, dissatisfaction with the intensity of the current amount of standardized testing taking place in our schools. One of the top concerns I share is the elimination of a parent’s right in deciding whether or not their child has to take the test.  I was appalled to be notified that school districts are intentionally telling parents that they cannot “opt out” their children from taking standardized tests.

Bill to hold off on Common Core, tabled in committee

A proposed moratorium on certain pieces of Common Core testing was tabled on a party-line vote on Monday in a House committee. House Minority Whip, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, sponsored HB 17, a bill that would limit the effects of Common Core testing. According to Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Dr. Ellen Bernstein, a witness for Stapleton, the bill would allow the state to better prepare for the standardized test associated with Common Core. Bernstein told the committee that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, or PARCC, computer based and many students are not proficient in computer skills. According to their website, PARCC is, “a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.” The PARCC exam is a computer-based assessment that New Mexico and other states use to determine student advancement eligibility and overall school grades.

Education will continue to be a hot topic for the legislature

Education is a topic that comes up every legislative session in New Mexico and draws out long and often heated discussions. This year, many of the bills that were unsuccessfully introduced by Republicans may have a chance of passing through the new House majority. In previous years, Democrats  were  opposed to Republican initiatives like student testing and third-grade retention. This session seems to be headed in the same direction. This is the third year that Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, has introduced legislation aimed at holding students back if they are not proficient in reading by the third grade.