New Mexico families testify in support of Medicaid Buy-in

Mothers, Elders Tell of Being Unable to Afford Care for Themselves, Their Families

SANTA FE–Dozens of New Mexico families, as part of the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign, testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Friday morning in support of HB 416, The Medicaid Buy-in Act, because the legislation would create greater access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Those speaking include Alanna Ranger, a young mother from Gallup, who made too much to qualify for Medicaid and did not make enough to be able to afford private health coverage.

“When my husband and I decided to start a family, we didn’t have insurance,” Ranger said. “We were both working two jobs, but we didn’t have coverage. We had to make very difficult decisions to figure out how to get the care my baby and I needed. That’s no way to start a family. Medicaid Buy-in would make insurance affordable for families like mine.”

The Medicaid Buy-in Act calls on the Health and Human Services Department to create and implement by 2021 a program to allow New Mexicans not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or Affordable Care Act subsidies to pay monthly premiums to “buy-in” to Medicaid.

Maria Burciaga, a promotora from Sunland Park, told the committee that the Buy-in would help her and people in her community.

“In 2014, I got sick,” Burciaga told the committee. “The hospital said I needed to pay $4,000 upfront. I did what I could and I managed to get $1,500, but the hospital still wouldn’t care for me because I didn’t have insurance. The hospitals won’t take care of us because we cannot afford it. Medicaid Buy-in is a good alternative for us.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare members Colin Baillio, Director of Policy and Communication with Health Action New Mexico, and Abuko Estrada, Supervising Attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, served as expert witnesses on the bill.

“New Mexico families deserve access to the affordable, quality healthcare they need to thrive,” Estrada said. “Medicaid Buy-in creates an unprecedented opportunity to increase access to healthcare.”

Baillio cited recent polling data that show that 74 percent of New Mexicans—regardless of political party—support Medicaid Buy-in.

“For too long too many New Mexicans have had to choose between paying their bills or getting the healthcare they need,” Baillio said. “New Mexicans know that it’s time for a change. Medicaid Buy-in will create the change they need—and deserve.”

Due to a request for technical amendments to HB 416 made by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, the committee did not vote on the bill on Friday. Instead, the bill will be amended and voted on at Monday’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

Hard working minimum wage workers, including tipped workers fight to raise the state’s minimum wage

SANTA FE, NM –  On Monday, February 11, dozens of low-wage workers, including tipped workers, their families, and allies will attend the House floor debate and vote on a proposal to increase the state minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

HB 31, sponsored by Representative Miguel Garcia (D-Bernalillo), would improve New Mexico’s stagnant wages and increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $10.00 beginning July 1, 2019 until reaching $12 an hour in 2021. The proposal would include an annual increase to adjust for inflation, beginning July 1, 2022. Tipped workers would also receive the new state minimum wage under the proposal, plus tips.

WHAT: House floor debate and vote on HB 31

WHEN: Monday, February 11 (House convenes at 10:30 a.m.)

WHERE: House of Representatives gallery? at the Roundhouse (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501)

*Interviews will be available upon request

Ahead of First Hearing, New Mexicans Share Healthcare Stories, Support for Medicaid Buy-in

Cancer patients, grandmothers want Buy-in to help their families & communities

With the first hearing for The Medicaid Buy-in Act scheduled for Friday, families from across the state came to the Capitol on Wednesday to tell their personal healthcare stories and to explain their support for Medicaid Buy-in.

“My family didn’t have health insurance,” said Richard Ranger from McKinley County. “Then we started getting medical bills and I knew we needed it. But when I applied for Medicaid, I found out we were making too much money to qualify. Medicaid Buy-in would really help people like me who are stuck in the middle without insurance.”

Ranger is not alone. Recent polling shows that 74 percent of New Mexicans—across party affiliations—support Medicaid Buy-in.

“If you don’t have insurance, you don’t exist,” said Maria Burciaga from Doña County. “Medicaid Buy-in would give more people the coverage they need to be able to see a doctor.”

Burciaga and Ranger are just two of the more than 240 New Mexicans who traveled to the Roundhouse Wednesday as part of Strong Families New Mexico’s Legislative Day—an annual event that allows families to talk with legislators about the real impacts that policy decisions have on their daily lives.

“Families should not have to choose between putting food on the table and getting healthcare,” said Adriann Barboa, Field Director of Strong Families New Mexico. “Medicaid Buy-in will ensure that families from McKinley County to Doña County have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Our families are here today to make sure legislators hear that message loud and clear.”

Medicaid Buy-in would allow certain New Mexicans to pay for the trusted health insurance coverage that Medicaid has provided families for more than 50 years. Specifically, those eligible for Medicaid Buy-in would include those not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act.

HB 416, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Armstrong and cosponsored by Speaker Brian Egolf and Rep. Nathan Small, will be heard Friday morning by the House Health and Human Services Committee. SB 405, the Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino with 11 senators cosponsoring, has been referred to the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

New Mexicans Who Want to Participate in Medicaid Buy-in to Share Personal Stories at Capitol

Patients with Chronic Disease, Grandparents want Buy-in for families, communities

New Mexicans who would benefit from a Medicaid Buy-in will come to the state Capitol on Wednesday to share their stories with legislators and media as part of their work to support legislation to create this innovative health coverage program.

Speakers will include patients with chronic diseases who have struggled to pay their medical bills and grandparents whose children have been overwhelmed by the medical bills incurred caring for their own children.

Sponsors of HB416 and SB405, the two Medicaid Buy-in bills, will hear families’ stories and make their own statements on why they were moved to sponsor these key bills.

Who: New Mexicans who want to participate in Medicaid Buy-in. Medicaid Buy-in bill sponsors.

What: Sharing personal stories about why they are advocating for Medicaid Buy-in.

When: Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 12-12:30 p.m.

Where: Room 318, New Mexico State Capitol. Why: To show the positive impact that Medicaid Buy-in could have on New Mexico families.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New Mexico, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

Polling Shows Medicaid Buy-in Has Capacity to Cross Political Health Care Divide

Nationally 78 percent of registered voters believe Medicaid Buy-in should be a priority for their state legislature.

Washington, D.C.– Recent polling conducted by United States of Care (US of Care) finds that the majority of Americans, regardless of party, support Medicaid Buy-in proposals as pathways to more affordable health care.

US of Care conducted public opinion research in New Mexico (November 19-21, 2018)–and nationally (November 16-29, 2018)–focused on the idea of Medicaid Buy-in. A buy-in would allow individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid to purchase state-sponsored coverage similar to Medicaid.

“Regardless of the politics of the moment, people want to know that if they are sick or injured they can see a doctor and afford their treatment. This research confirms that voters value predictability and security when it comes to health care and that they support policies, like Medicaid Buy-in, that increase access to affordable care,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, US of Care Founder’s Council member and President of Golden Shore Medical Group.

Our research in New Mexico and nationally shows health care costs and access are among the public’s top concerns. Nationally 88 percent of voters think that health care should be affordable for themselves and their neighbors. In New Mexico, when it came to health care, expense was the top concern among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The same surveys showed that the idea of Medicaid Buy-in has wide support. In New Mexico, the support was 74 percent overall. Nationally, 78 percent thought the idea was an important next step to affordability.

In the national survey, participants were asked who was best suited to tackle the issue of Medicaid Buy-in and 56 percent think that state governments should lead this charge.

Medicaid Buy-in receives broad support in New Mexico from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents whose support did not dip below 60 percent at 81, 62, and 77 percents respectively. This solid level of support from all political groups further demonstrates that the appeal of buy-in proposals bypasses partisan lines.

“Medicaid Buy-in has strong support with voters of all political stripes in New Mexico for a couple of reasons. First, it places the state in charge of bringing affordable health care to their residents, and second, polls show 66 percent of New Mexicans view the New Mexico Medicaid program positively,” added John McCarthy, Policy Fellow at United States of Care. “States have long been the policy laboratories where new ideas can be developed and tested, and buying into a Medicaid-like plan is no exception.”

“As the Director of Casa de Salud, a clinic that primarily serves uninsured patients as well as patients with Medicaid, I know that the Medicaid Buy-in would be a win for the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of our patients — and a win for the financial, emotional, and overall health of our society. New Mexico deserves a Medicaid Buy-in option,” added Dr. Anjali Taneja, Executive Director of Casa de Salud.

New Mexico Together for Healthcare has been studying this option for nearly two years and knows that it is the most viable option for ensuring access to affordable, quality health care.

Find the complete polling memo here

About United States of Care:
United States of Care is a nonpartisan organization committed to ensuring that every single American has access to quality, affordable health care. The organization supports endorsing state-based policies, building resources to understand current and new ideas, and educating and mobilizing the public to make progress toward this mission.

About NM Together for Healthcare:
NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, led by Strong Families New Mexico, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/
Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC and Instagram @NMT4HC.


Families and Healthcare Advocates Support Medicaid Buy-in Bill

New Mexico is leading the way in developing and implementing the Medicaid Buy-in

SANTA FE–New Mexico Together for Healthcare, a coalition of local organizations and families from across the state advocating for better healthcare for all New Mexicans, on Tuesday announced its support of  HB 416, The Medicaid Buy-in Act, which leverages the state Medicaid program to create a new, quality, affordable healthcare coverage option for New Mexico.

“No New Mexican family should go without healthcare because they cannot afford it,” said Abuko D. Estrada, healthcare supervising attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The Medicaid Buy-in creates an unprecedented opportunity for New Mexico to lead the nation in increasing access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage for its residents.

HB 416, introduced by Rep. Debbie Armstrong on Tuesday and will be read into the record on Wednesday. The bill calls on the Human Services Department to develop a Medicaid Buy-in plan by January 2021, allowing New Mexicans not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or Affordable Care Act subsidies to pay monthly premiums to “buy-in” to Medicaid.

“New Mexico is leading the way in developing and implementing the Medicaid Buy-in,” said Adriann Barboa, field director with Strong Families New Mexico. “More than 830,000 New Mexicans—about 40 percent of our population—already count on and trust Medicaid to provide their health coverage. Having such a strong, reliable Medicaid program already in place will give the Buy-in a strong foundation.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare further says that New Mexicans are ready for the Medicaid Buy-in, pointing to New Mexicans who are already excited to participate in the program.

“When my grandson was born, he had no health insurance,” said Althea Yazzie of Twin Lakes. “A simple hospital visit and X-ray while he was still an infant left my son and daughter-in-law confused and scared because the hospital bill was so much more than they expected—or could afford. With Medicaid Buy-in they could have bought into coverage before he was born to ensure that he could get the healthcare he needed. Thankfully, my grandson is healthy today. That’s not true for too many other families.”

Yazzie is not alone, says Colin Baillio with Health Action New Mexico. In fact, recent polling by US of Care shows that 74 percent of New Mexicans support Medicaid Buy-in.

“Even with the ACA and other efforts to get people covered, 190,000 New Mexicans do not have healthcare coverage and are not able to afford even basic, preventive care,” Baillio said. “Medicaid Buy-in will help those New Mexico families.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare has planned an extensive advocacy effort to educate legislators not only about the program itself but also about their constituents’ very real need for Medicaid Buy-in.

“New Mexico communities are mobilized and ready to make their voices heard,” said Olga Hernandez, a community healthcare worker from Doña Ana County,  and advocate for HB416 . “For too long too many New Mexicans have had to decide between paying their bills or getting the healthcare they need. New Mexicans know that it’s time for a change. Medicaid Buy-in will create the change they need—and deserve.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare plans a day of action at the Legislature on Wednesday, February 6. Led by Strong Families New Mexico, more than 240 New Mexicans from around the state have already signed up to come to the Capitol to share their stories and advocate for Medicaid Buy-in.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, led by Strong Families New Mexico, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC and Instagram @NMT4HC.

From teacher salaries to a multicultural education framework, legislation seeks to improve New Mexico’s education system

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO—Several of the court-mandated remedies to fix the New Mexico education system were discussed at a press event on Monday in the Roundhouse Rotunda, where legislators, students, parents, and lawsuit plaintiffs explained precisely what is necessary to ensure that students’ constitutional right to a quality education is no longer violated.

The remedies include a multicultural education framework, improved bilingual and English language learner programming, universal and quality full-day pre-kindergarten, sufficient access to extended learning opportunities like summer school and after school programming, social services, smaller class sizes, and increased teacher pay and support to recruit and retain high-quality educators.

“These aren’t pie-in-the-sky wishes from concerned parents—we’re working with legislators on bills that represent the minimum fixes needed to meet the court’s order and the rights of our students,” said Victoria Tafoya, Director of the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education and spokesperson for the Transform Education NM Coalition. “We have a unique opportunity to give all of our students across the state the chance to succeed, and that’s what these pieces of legislation aim to do.”

Proposed legislation for 2019 is based on the Transform Education NM Platform, a comprehensive  blueprint for action to fix New Mexico’s schools. Based on the input of 300+ diverse community stakeholders and two million pages of documentation and expert testimony of educators, economists, and academic researchers as part of the Yazzie/Martinez trial, the platform is the roadmap to successfully transforming the state’s education system.

“Teachers are the heart of education,” said Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Majority Floor Leader of the New Mexico House and sponsor of HB 171, which raises the minimum wage for teachers. “We have among the lowest teacher wages in the country, and one of the highest turnover rates. To be competitive with surrounding states, and to be compliant with the court order, teacher salaries must be increased and must be adjusted yearly for inflation.”

Representative Tomás E. Salazar is sponsoring HB 111, HB 120, and HB 159 to ensure a multicultural, bilingual framework is at the core of the education system. “The bills sponsored by myself and my fellow legislators align to an overall platform that was developed by teachers, superintendents, parents, tribal education experts, and many others. For the first time, we’ve really listened to New Mexicans on what we need to redesign the education system here. We have the knowledge and expertise, and I’m proud to carry these bills.”

Although 76 percent of New Mexico public school students are culturally and linguistically diverse, the court found that the State is violating New Mexico laws that require a multicultural and bilingual framework for New Mexico’s schools. Multiculturalism and bilingualism must be reflected in curriculum, teacher development and in building pathways for teachers.

“As an immigrant, I believe we should be valuing our diversity and seeing it as a strength,” said Michelle Soto, a high school student and member of the New Mexico Dream Team who spoke at the event. “We know that students who are more connected to their culture and community do better in school and we need to strengthen the power of that connection. We can no longer leave some of our students behind.”

Education funding in New Mexico is closely tied to the oil and gas industry, and thereby dependent on the price of oil. While the industry is doing well, and the state legislature is currently operating with a budget surplus, the tax revenue that supports our schools is volatile.

“Big change requires a big investment, and a big investment is what we need to build a world-class education system,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children and former Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration. “Education in New Mexico has been underfunded for decades. We need to ensure that our schools are sufficiently-resourced to comply with the court’s order, and we need to be certain those resources are sustainable. We need to get off the oil and gas boom-to-bust roller coaster. Legislators need to look at our tax system and make sure it is fair for working families and that our revenue system is stable and sustainable.”

Transform Education NM’s platform and factsheets on the coalition’s legislation can be found here:  http://nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

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Transform Education NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s education system for our students.

Transform Education NM to share legislative agenda at press conference MONDAY

Transform Education NM, a broad coalition of teachers, parents, students, district superintendents, bilingual experts, and non-profit organizations, will hold a press event on Monday, January 21, at 2:00 p.m. in the Rotunda at the New Mexico State Capital. The Coalition will share its legislative agenda that aligns with its Platform for Action, which was developed in collaboration with hundreds of educational and tribal leaders, families, and informed directly by the court’s decision.

WHAT:

Transform Education NM press event in the Rotunda

WHO:

  • Wilhelmina Yazzie, plaintiff in the Yazzie v. State of New Mexico lawsuit
  • Victoria Tafoya, Transform Education NM & New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education
  • Representative Tomás E. Salazar
  • Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Majority Floor Leader
  • Michelle Soto, high school student
  • James Jimenez, NM Voices for Children

WHEN:

Monday, January 21, 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: 

Roundhouse Rotunda
New Mexico State Capital
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87501

OTHER:

The press event will be streamed via Facebook Live: www.Facebook.com/TransformEducationNM

*Presenters, students, educators, and other coalition members will be available immediately after the press for one-on-one interviews.

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Transform Eduction NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s education system for our students.

Action Alert: Please ask policymakers to invest in Medicaid home visiting services

Every child deserves the best start from birth! Please call the policymakers below and ask them to invest in Medicaid home visiting services.

This legislative session, New Mexico has an opportunity to improve early childhood health and development outcomes by expanding home visiting services through Medicaid. 

For roughly every $3 dollars New Mexico invests in Medicaid home visiting, the federal government will put $7 toward the program in matching funds. 
Expanding home visiting to 10,000 more Medicaid-eligible children will only require an investment of $10 million. This investment will support services proven to: 

  • Improve a child’s physical, social, and emotional well-being;
  • Increase the likelihood that a child receives important screenings and immunizations;
  • Reduce childhood abuse and neglect;
  • Reduce healthcare costs;
  • Improve a child’s school readiness; and
  • Increase parental enrollment in education and job programs. 

Please help us call these key policymakers and ask them to invest $10 million in Medicaid home visiting services. It is easy and will only take a few minutes.

  • Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, (505) 476-2200
  • Speaker Brian Egolf, (505) 986-4782
  • Representative Patty Lundstrom, Chair of House Appropriations Committee, (505) 986-4316 
  • Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, (505) 986-4727
  • Senator John Arthur Smith, Chair of Senate Finance Committee, (505) 986-4365

A staff member for each policymaker will answer the phone. You will give your name and leave a message that you want them to invest $10 million in Medicaid home visiting services.

Please email William@nmpovertylaw.org if you have any questions.

Court order supports call to transform New Mexico’s school system

New court document explains precisely how state is not meeting constitutional requirements for a sufficient education

ALBUQUERQUE—Judge Sarah Singleton’s most recent order in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico makes clear that the court expects a major overhaul of the state’s public school system to bring it into compliance with the constitution and other state laws.

The extensive 600-page “findings of fact and conclusions of law” describes in great detail the need for a multicultural education framework, improved bilingual and English language learner programming, universal and quality full-day pre-kindergarten, sufficient access to extended learning opportunities like summer school and after school programming, social services, smaller class sizes, and increased teacher pay and support to recruit and retain high-quality educators.  

“The court’s ruling couldn’t be more clear: the programs and services that work must be made available immediately to all children, not just some children,” said Gail Evans, lead counsel for the Yazzie plaintiffs for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The state has failed a generation of children but now has a historic opportunity, and a legal obligation, to rise to the occasion and provide our children the educational opportunities they need to succeed. No more excuses. No more nickel and diming our kids. The time to fix our schools is now.”

The court’s order mandates that the state take immediate steps, by April 15, 2019, to ensure New Mexico’s schools have the resources necessary to prepare students for college and career.

“I just want what every parent wants, for my children to graduate ready to pursue their dreams. Every New Mexican child deserves that,” said Wilhelmina Yazzie, the lead plaintiff in Yazzie v. State of New Mexico. “My son’s school in Gallup doesn’t have enough resources to provide basic materials for all the students, much less offer the culturally relevant programs he needs. Our children are important, and they are just as capable as any other children in the nation. It’s time for New Mexico to truly transform our public education system – small fixes just don’t cut it.”

The judge’s order provides legal backing to the Transform Education NM platform: a blueprint for action, supported by research and evidence at trial, that sets forth the initial necessary steps to bring the state’s education system into compliance with the constitution. The platform was developed by hundreds of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs.

“Our recommendations for overhauling our school system don’t just constitute a nice wish-list but are requirements to meet the basic needs of our students,” said Veronica Garcia, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, which is one of the plaintiffs in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. “The law is on the side of students across the state. Policymakers need to pass the education legislation necessary to satisfy the judge’s order. We won’t stop advocating until every child in New Mexico has the educational opportunities they deserve.”

“From students to teachers, from curriculum to funding, from early childhood to graduation, we have the unique opportunity to transform our public education system and do right by our students,” said Adan Delgado, Superintendent of Cuba Independent District, one of the other plaintiffs.

“At-risk and Native American students have been left behind for too long in New Mexico,” said Mike Hyatt, superintendent of Gallup McKinley County Schools, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We look forward to working with legislators and the state to turn around our education system to fulfill its constitutional obligation to meet the needs of all students.”

The judge’s order can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Courts-Findings-of-Fact-and-Conclusions-of-Law-2018-12-20.pdf

The Transform Education NM platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Transform-Education-NM-Platform-2018-12-11.pdf

A summary of the platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Transform-Education-NM-2-Page-Platform-Summary.pdf