New Mexico First Blog

2019 Legislative Outcomes: New Mexico First Successfully Advances Consensus-Driven Legislative Priorities

Higher education, workforce development, agriculture bills led the list ..

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Legislation to increase need-based scholarships passes the Senate Education Committee unanimously

NM SB81 - Increase Certain Scholarship Amounts (sponsored by Sen. Gay Kernan) passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. This bill would begin to replenish New Mexico’s College Affordability Endowment Fund, helping to ensure that older, nontraditional and tribal students receive modest tuition relief when pursuing a degree or certificate program. ..

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New Mexico First advocates stronger higher education and workforce development systems

New Mexico First’s legislative platform comes from consensus‐driven town hall deliberations. The two‐day statewide town halls are typically comprised of 200 or more people representing urban, rural and tribal communities. Participants include students, parents, educators, nonprofit and business professionals, and government officials. New Mexico First is pleased to advance high priority legislation that is based on the 2018 higher ed town hall recommendations and the 2016 economy town hall recommendations. Additionally, New Mexico First supports legislation that is based on the Ag Plan. The plan was developed as the result of the Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture project that began in 2016 to address unprecedented challenges to the health of the industry. Track legislation with us! Download our legislative priorities brief.  ..

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New Mexico First supports the College Affordability Fund bill before the N.M. State Legislature

Heather Balas, New Mexico First's executive director, testified before N.M. State Legislature, House Education Committee about the role of the College Affordability Fund bill and the importance of reinstating funding, a priority of New Mexico First's 2018 statewide town hall on higher education.  ..

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Statewide town hall: education after high school ‘urgently needed’ to turn around state’s poverty trend

New Mexicans say higher education, workforce development reforms necessary to stem ‘brain drain,’ lift families out of poverty and improve healthcare outcomes  ..

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Higher education town hall: graduates must be career-ready

Nearly 200 citizens from all state regions say reforms urgently needed to stem ‘brain drain,’ lift families out of poverty and improve healthcare outcome!

Albuquerque, N.M. – New Mexicans attending a statewide town hall on higher education this week delivered a dozen reform proposals for a system they said is not adequately preparing students for careers in the state.

Public policy organization New Mexico First convened its regular town hall, the organization’s 42nd, which invites residents from all over the state to converge on a chosen topic, discuss solutions and agree by consensus on a slate of reforms that New Mexico First then implements through legislation and other means. Some past town halls have discussed healthcare, economic vitality and water.

This week’s town hall, entitled “Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce,” hosted nearly 200 New Mexicans on Tuesday and Wednesday in Albuquerque to discuss the state’s higher education and workforce development systems.

“Education changes lives, it changes families and it changes our future,” Heather Balas, president and executive director of New Mexico First, said. “New Mexicans know the impact of education and the urgency with which we need to make reforms, as evidenced by the hundreds of citizens in attendance who came from two-thirds of the state’s counties and representing rural, tribal and urban areas.”

Balas said higher education and workforce development are “inextricably connected” to the state’s high rate of poverty, years-long high unemployment rate and the outmigration of working-age adults, especially graduates of New Mexico colleges and universities.

“More can be done to align degrees and certificates with the abundance of job vacancies in the state,” Balas said. “A critical sector with an ongoing shortage of workers is healthcare, which limits residents’ access to health services. We had a group of participants focus specifically on how to fill the healthcare workforce pipeline with qualified workers.”

Bringing down barriers was a common theme that emerged from the half-dozen discussion groups, with each group focusing on a different topic. Collectively, groups said the state’s higher education system will benefit from greater collaboration between community colleges and universities, and making post-high school education more accessible will improve completion and career outcomes.

“Many of the state’s higher education institutions are written into our constitution, so they cannot be eliminated, and it was recently concluded by a task force that doing so would not help much,” Del Archuleta, one of two co-chairs heading up efforts to implement the town hall’s recommendations. “With only so much money to be shared by our universities and colleges, what we can do is find ways for them to collaborate so that New Mexico has a more cohesive educational system.”

Each of the six discussion groups was tasked with crafting a vision statement at the beginning of the town hall. For example, the discussion group whose topic was titled “Student Success: High school preparedness and community college” envision that “[b]y 2028 New Mexico will lead the nation in high school and post-secondary enrollment and graduation rates. K-12 and post-secondary improvements, incorporating experiential and relevant learning has resulted in an increase in college and career readiness and living wages.”

Groups were then directed to propose two goals, each with three to five strategies on how to attain the goal. Goals and accompanying strategies had to receive a vote by the full town hall of 85 percent to move forward as a consensus-based recommendation.

Randy Grissom, a former Santa Fe Community College president and Archuleta’s implementation co-chair, said that detailed action plans of the recommendations will be determined in the coming months as the implementation committee and sub-committees convene.

“Our job, after the town hall, is to work with the committee to winnow down that list to a small set for which we can advocate to the Legislature,” Grissom said. “Implementing the full body of work created by the town hall will require even more New Mexicans’ rallying for these changes, and we will work with community leaders, educators, the media and others to get it accomplished. New Mexico’s future depends on it.”

The complete report on the town hall will be released later this month on the nonprofit’s website, nmfirst.org. Goals outlined by the town hall fall into three categories: student success in high school preparation, community colleges and universities; higher education institution governance and funding; and workforce alignment and integration, particularly in the energy and healthcare industries. Specific examples are:

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Registration Opens for The Upcoming Town Hall on Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce!

Calling on all Community members, business leaders, family and labor advocates, educators, tribal representatives, government professionals, elected officials and students to register for the upcoming town hall, Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce.  ..

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2018 Legislative Session

The legislative session is underway, and New Mexico First is actively following economy, water, agriculture and education policy. We are supporting legislation that aligns with town hall recommendations from the Statewide Town Hall on Water (2014) , the Statewide Town Hall on Economic Vitality (2016)and the Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture Strategic Plan (Ag Plan).  ..

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Report released: NM Arts Focus Group Report: Fine Arts Education

New Mexico First is pleased to announce the release of the New Mexico Arts Focus Group Report: Fine Arts Education in Public Middle and High Schools. This report concludes the second of three phases initiated by NM Arts , a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs, to improve and expand arts education for public middle and high school students.

The focus group’s recommendations include:

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Save the date: 2018 Statewide Town Hall: Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce

New Mexicans will come together in April 10-11 to develop smart, actionable recommendations on higher education policy. Registration will open in February 2018! ..

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