New Mexico Reading, Math Scores Below National Average – By Russell Contreras Associated Press
New Mexico's fourth-grade and eighth-grade students' test scores in math and reading on the latest Nation's Report Card remain well below the national average.
Results released Wednesday on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show fourth-graders in the state scored 12 points below the national average on math and 11 points below the national average score in reading.
The report says about 29% of the state's fourth-graders are proficient in math, and only 24% in reading. About 21% of eighth-graders are proficient in math.
Nationwide, a little more than a third of eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math. About a third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, while more than 40% of fourth-graders are proficient in math.
The nationwide test is given to a sampling of students in those grades every two years.
Students made big gains in math in the 1990s and 2000s but have shown little improvement since then. Reading scores have risen a little since the tests began in 1992.
New Mexico Man Gets Life For Family Killings As A Teen – Associated Press
A man who shot and killed his parents and three young siblings as a juvenile has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Judge Alisa Hart issued 22-year-old Nehemiah Griego's long-awaited sentence Friday afternoon, saying he could potentially become eligible for parole after 30 years.
Griego was 15 when authorities say he plotted the killings at his family's Albuquerque-area home.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death four years ago. His case underwent two hearings to determine his receptiveness to treatment.
Griego's attorneys sought a sentence in which Griego could continue treatment while on probation.
Hart's order says that option would have placed the community at risk, while adding that Griego's case exposed the limits of the legal system.
New Mexico Fight Over Epstein Grazing Leases Settled – Associated Press
A court battle over public grazing leases that New Mexico officials believe were used to help shield a remote desert ranch owned by financier Jeffrey Epstein is over.
The State Land Office announced Friday that Cypress Inc., a company associated with Epstein, has dropped its claims over the agency's cancellation of two grazing leases.
A portion of Epstein's Zorro Ranch in central New Mexico extends across state trust land, under the grazing contracts with Cypress. Epstein was accused of abusing young women there before he died behind bars.
Cypress initially contested the move by the land office and asked a state district court to intervene. A hearing had been scheduled for next week.
State officials say Cypress agreed to the cancellation and to drop the court case during settlement negotiations.
Report: New Mexico Lacks Tools To Track Government Spending – Associated Press
New Mexico likely isn't getting the best bang for its buck since it lacks the personnel and technology needed for its purchasing division to adequately track nearly $2 billion in government spending.
Legislative analysts have found that some state agencies are unnecessarily buying high-end vehicles, computers, drones and other goods and are forgoing bulk purchasing and additional negotiations that would otherwise result in discounts.
The findings were presented Thursday to a panel of state lawmakers.
The report also points to instances in which some agencies are taking advantage of loose rules that have resulted in lucrative contracts with former staff and the hiring of high-priced consultants without seeking other options.
Among the recommendations, the analysts say the state purchasing division should require its specialists to conduct analyses of all spending.
New Mexico Senator's Request For Jury Trial In DWI Rejected – Associated Press
A New Mexico judge has rejected state Sen. Richard Martinez's request for a jury trial in a drunken driving case clearing the way for a trial scheduled to begin later this month.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the Democratic senator was charged with aggravated DWI and reckless driving, both of which carry maximum 90-day penalties.
Judge Francis Mathew says the court system has limited resources and criminal defendants in New Mexico can only seek jury trials if they face a potential sentence of more than six months in prison.
Martinez pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the June 28 car crash in Espanola.
The trial is set to begin Nov. 18.
Martinez says he does not plan to resign from the Legislature, even if he's convicted.
Organizers Call 2019 International Balloon Fiesta A Success – Associated Press
The numbers have been tallied, and organizers of the world's largest hot air balloon festival are calling this year's event a success.
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta drew an estimated 866,414 guest visits over nine days, as hundreds of pilots from around the world gathered to launch their balloons.
In all, 588 balloons registered for the event. That included 104 special shaped balloons.
Seventeen countries were represented, from Austria and Belgium to India, Colombia and Kenya.
Organizers say views of Balloon Fiesta Live neared 741,000, and nearly all of the scheduled events —with the exception of the kickoff mass ascension and one of the evening balloon glows — went on as planned.
New Mexico Prepares To Harvest US Capitol Christmas Tree - Associated Press
Forest officials in New Mexico are ready to harvest a towering blue spruce that will serve as this year's Christmas tree in front of the U.S. Capitol.
After nearly a year of planning, the tree will be cut down Nov. 6 during a ceremony in the Carson National Forest. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and forest officials will be there when the 60-foot tree comes down.
Once cut, the tree will be lifted by cranes onto a trailer and secured for the first leg of its journey, which will include a statewide tour before being transported to Washington.
Officials say the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree cutting and celebrations are made possible with cash and in-kind contributions from numerous companies and volunteers who provide their time and resources.
Group Starts Petition Against New Mexico Energy Law – Associated Press
An advocacy group that supports New Mexico's traditional energy industry has started a petition drive aimed at a new state law that mandates more electricity be generated from renewable resources.
Power the Future rolled out its petition Thursday. The group's western states director, Larry Behrens, says he wants New Mexico's elected leaders to know that residents are concerned about what he described as job-killing policies related to the Energy Transition Act.
The group contends the law was written by radical environmentalists and out of-state special interests.
Environmentalists have fired back, saying Power the Future itself is funded by outside industry groups.
Aside from mandating that utilities provide emissions-free electricity by 2045, the law charts a course for the closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington by 2022.
Pilot Ejects Safely After Air Force F-16 Crash In New Mexico – Associated Press
The Air Force says a pilot successfully ejected from an F-16 before the fighter crashed in southern New Mexico during a training flight.
Holloman Air Force Base officials say the F-16 assigned to the 49th Wing at the base crashed Tuesday night about 80 miles southeast of the base.
Officials said in a statement that the pilot was taken to a hospital for treatment, but it did not provide information on any injuries to the pilot, whose identity was not released.
The statement said a board of officers will investigate the crash and that its cause wasn't immediately determined.