Author: KGFisher

Mandi Torrez, 2020 Teacher of the Year, Joins Think New Mexico

We are delighted to welcome Mandi Torrez at Think New Mexico’s new Education Reform Director!

Mandi is New Mexico’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. She has a decade of experience teaching third and fourth grade in the Bernalillo Public Schools, and she was also recognized as that district’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. Mandi holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Integrated Elementary and Special Education. Before becoming a teacher, she worked at the Farmington Daily Times as the News Editor and as Copy Editor.

Prior to joining Think New Mexico, Mandi served as Teacher Liaison at the Public Education Department, and she has experience advocating at the state legislature as a New Mexico Senior Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, a policy and leadership training network for teachers.

We are excited that Mandi will be leading Think New Mexico’s major new effort to rethink New Mexico’s public schools and lift up student performance and outcomes, particularly for the at-risk children who make up nearly three out of four students in our schools. Read a recent Albuquerque Journal editorial about our proposed reforms.

Our New Project: A Roadmap for Rethinking New Mexico’s Public Schools

Think New Mexico has just released a new report laying out a sweeping ten point plan with 30 separate legislative recommendations to improve the performance of New Mexico’s struggling public education system, which was ranked last in the nation for quality by five separate evaluations by Education Week, Forbes, Kids Count, WalletHub, and U.S. News and World Report.

This report, several years in the making, differs from Think New Mexico’s past policy initiatives, which have generally focused on a single core reform, like repealing the food tax or ending predatory lending.

The reason for this different approach is that the solutions needed to improve our public schools are interlinked. For example, New Mexico needs better prepared principals in order to recruit and retain good teachers, and highly effective teachers are essential in order for students to benefit from extra time for focused learning. While there are many good ideas for improving our schools, we searched for and highlighted those ideas that the evidence demonstrates can move the needle for student achievement—particularly for at-risk students—based on experience in New Mexico and elsewhere.

You can read the report and find out more details about our recommendations on the Education Reform section of this website.

If you like what you read and you’d like to be part of this effort to revitalize public schools in New Mexico, please contact your legislators and the governor and urge them to enact these reforms during the upcoming 2023 legislative session!

Thanks to you, we met the challenge!

Our deep thanks go out to the ten extremely generous New Mexicans who put together a pool of challenge grants totaling $165,000 and to the 404 New Mexicans who helped us more than match that challenge!

Including both the challenge grants and your matching contributions, during the online fundraising campaign between October 17-28, 2022 you helped us raise $329,986, which is more than 45% of Think New Mexico’s annual budget. We are especially pleased to welcome our 65 first-time supporters.

Since Think New Mexico was founded in 1999, we have always worked hard to keep our fundraising expenses to an absolute minimum. That’s why we have never employed a professional fundraiser. This strategy has succeeded thanks to all of you who give so generously during our two-week fund drive every year and make it possible for Think New Mexico’s small staff to focus on our policy research and advocacy work.

Find Out Where Your Candidates Stand on Think New Mexico’s Policy Reforms!

On November 8, every seat in the New Mexico State House of Representatives is up for election, as is the governorship.

As you make your decision about who you are going to support, we encourage you to find out where your candidates stand on Think New Mexico’s policy initiatives. Here’s how to do it:

1) Find out which New Mexico State House district you live in by entering your address on the New Mexico legislature’s website. (Note that due to the recent redistricting, your House district may have changed.)

2) Look up email addresses for the candidates running in your state House district and the gubernatorial candidates on our handy chart.

3) Send your candidate (and the candidates for governor!) a quick email asking where they stand on an issue or two that you are passionate about.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask:

  • Would you oppose any legislation that would reimpose the food tax?
  • Would you support making financial literacy a high school graduation requirement?
  • Would you support legislation that would maximize the amount of New Mexico’s education budget that is spent in the classroom, rather than on school district central administration?
  • Would you support legislation to reform infrastructure funding in New Mexico by creating a merit-based process to prioritize and fully fund the most urgently needed projects across the state?

If you get a response to your questions to candidates, please let us know!

This information is extremely helpful to us as we work to build coalitions in support of Think New Mexico’s policy reforms – and candidates are more likely to support these reforms if their voters are asking about them. Many thanks for your help!

Think New Mexico Welcomes our 2022 Leadership Interns!

This summer, our exceptional summer Leadership Interns include Malina Brannen, who grew up in Santa Fe and is now a senior majoring in Government and minoring in Spanish; Alyssa-Noelle Capuano, who graduated from La Cueva high school in Albuquerque and is now a rising senior at the University of New Mexico, majoring in Political Science, working on her MBA, and minoring in French; Salomon Moises Cordova, who was born in Cedar Crest and raised throughout central New Mexico, and just graduated from St. John’s in Santa Fe; and Abigail Goldstein, who graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy at the University of New Mexico.

Read more about this year’s Leadership Interns.

Malina Brannen Alyssa-Neolle Capuano Salomon Moises Cordova Abigail Goldstein

Financial Literacy and Civics Should be Graduation Requirements!

The Public Education Department recently unveiled a proposed redesign of New Mexico’s high school curriculum. That plan rejects the ideas of including personal finance and civics as high school graduation requirements and proposes to shift required courses in government, economics and New Mexico history to optional electives. We oppose this proposal because the research shows that relevant courses like civics and financial literacy keep students engaged and on track to graduate, and also that students will rise to meet higher expectations – it does them a disservice to water down graduation requirements.

Read our Education Reform Director’s guest editorial about this proposal and join us in urging your legislators and the governor to keep New Mexico’s graduation requirements rigorous and relevant for students!

Results Achieved During the 2022 Legislative Session

During the 2022 legislative session, Think New Mexico successfully championed the enactment of two landmark reforms that:

  • Ended predatory lending! House Bill 132 passed the House 51-18 and the Senate 19-8. This bill would reduce the maximum annual interest rate on small loans from 175%, one of the highest rates allowed anywhere in the nation, to 36%, the national average. When the governor signs it, this new law will put an end to four decades of predatory lending and will save hardworking New Mexicans approximately $175 million in interest payments every year. Read more about this reform.
  • Repealed the tax on Social Security income for all middle and lower income seniors! The legislature passed House Bill 163, which exempts Social Security from taxation for all middle and lower income seniors – with incomes under $100,000 as individuals or $150,000 as couples. When this reform is signed, it will save middle and low-income seniors $84 million this tax year, rising to $99.5 million by 2025. Approximately 86% of New Mexico seniors will qualify for the exemption, and the average senior will save around $710 a year.  Read more about this reform.

Public Education Department Adopts Think New Mexico’s Personal Finance Standards!

In October 2021, the New Mexico Public Education Department released an update to its K-12 Social Studies standards, which detail the concepts that students should learn in classes like history and economics.

Because that initial draft did not add any financial literacy benchmarks, Think New Mexico wrote our own, based on the national best practices and the standards in place in other states like Colorado, and we urged the Public Education Department to include them.

That’s where you came in: New Mexicans like you submitted 263 public comments in support of our recommendation, including powerful personal testimony from students, parents, teachers, and graduates of New Mexico’s public schools. The Department took notice of this strong public response, and your impact is reflected in the revised standards they just released.

With this change, New Mexico will no longer be one of only five states that fails to include financial literacy in its education standards. The new standards will ensure students learn key skills and concepts like how to budget, open a bank account, make smart credit choices, and apply for financial aid to pay for college.

Thanks for helping us meet the challenge!

Our deep thanks go out to the eight extremely generous New Mexicans who put together a pool of challenge grants totaling $135,000 and to the 338 New Mexicans who helped us more than match that challenge!

Including both the challenge grants and your matching contributions, during the online fundraising campaign between October 18-29, 2021 you helped us raise $276,530, which is more than 40% of Think New Mexico’s annual budget. We are especially pleased to welcome our 47 new supporters.

Since Think New Mexico was founded in 1999, we have always worked hard to keep our fundraising expenses to an absolute minimum. That’s why we have never employed a professional fundraiser. This strategy has succeeded thanks to all of you who give so generously every year and make it possible for Think New Mexico’s small staff to focus on our policy research and advocacy work.

Help Ensure that Every New Mexico Student Has Access to Financial Literacy Education!

The New Mexico Public Education Department is updating its K-12 Social Studies standards, which detail the concepts that students will learn in classes like history and economics. This gives us an important opportunity to make sure that every New Mexico student has the opportunity to learn essential personal finance skills before they graduate from high school.

New Mexico is one of only five states that fails to include personal finance in its education standards. Personal finance standards teach students essential life skills like budgeting, checking and savings accounts, credit, interest, investment in stocks and bonds, and the costs of borrowing. The research shows that students who receive this education are more likely to save money, budget their spending, invest, and obtain more financial aid for college.

The department’s draft revision didn’t add any personal finance benchmarks, so Think New Mexico wrote our own based on the national best practices and the standards in place in other states like Colorado. (You can review our proposal here: Think New Mexico’s proposed additions are highlighted throughout the draft rule.)

We hope you’ll join us in urging the Public Education Department to adopt strong personal finance standards for New Mexico’s students! Please note that comments must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on November 12.

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