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Syrian military moves in as the U.S. moves out; and Colorado looks at Public Option health plans. Plus, Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Tonight, 12 candidates will take the fourth Democratic debate stage in Westerville, Ohio. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be there, despite considering a boycott of the event.

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Hot Issues Keep New Mexico Teachers Busy This Summer

July 2, 2009

Albuquerque – School's out for the summer in New Mexico, but the state's teachers are getting down to business. Here at home, educators and National Education Association (NEA)-New Mexico, the state's largest educator's union, are in court with the state over the legislature's decision to tax teachers' benefits to help close the state budget gap. This weekend, a delegation of educators from the Land of Enchantment are in San Diego for the NEA's annual representative assembly.

NEA-New Mexico president Sharon Morgan says the state received a bundle of stimulus money for education, but teachers still took a hit.

"The legislature still cut school funding in New Mexico by $30 million, and that's a problem. We believe we could be using stimulus money to make up that difference."

Lawmakers say across-the-board cuts were the only fair way to close the budget gap, but the NEA says investing in education pays bigger dividends down the road and helps the state weather downturns. This weekends' representative assembly will be working on NEA's blueprint for fixing the No Child Left Behind law, adds Morgan, which is coming up for renewal in Congress. She says a big part of the plan is adding more flexibility.

"We would be able to measure growth rather than just a standardized test score. We all know students who don't test well, and no matter how great their teacher is, they may not test well."

The group is also working on a 12-point dropout prevention plan, and one part of the plan has been gaining traction in recent lawmaking sessions in Santa Fe, adds Morgan.

"It's having more individual attention to our students, so that they have smaller, safe schools, or if they're in a large school, smaller learning communities and smaller classes."

Increasing graduation options, quality early childhood education and mentoring programs are also part of the plan, according to the union. Other issues set for discussion this weekend include the proposed reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law and a plan to lower the dropout rate, which is above the national average in New Mexico. Also on the agenda, Governor Richardson will receive NEA's America's Greatest Education Governor award.

The theme of this year's assembly is "Hope Begins Here," starting Friday and continuing through Monday.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM