We wanted to report on the late hearings before the Legislative Finance Committee yesterday, which featured UNM's Health Sciences Center and the state's Colleges of Education.

Reminding legislators of HSC's mission to educate the next generation of health care provider, HSC Chancellor Dr. Paul Roth said that with more than 600 programs in 176 communities, the HSC has the largest medical campus in the country – the state of New Mexico.

HSC's legislative priorities include the following:
• $1.3 million for faculty salary parity at the School of Medicine
• One-time funding of $2.8 million for a two-year expansion of the nurse practitioner program
• $1.6 million to sustain the services of the internationally renowned Project ECHO
• Funding for staff support for the Healthcare Workforce Database recently transferred from the Dept. of Health
• As an alternative to a dental school, funding to begin a BA/DDS program along the lines of the BA/MD program
• Funding to sustain HEROs – Health Extension Rural Offices
• $565,000 for Office of the Medical Investigator back transport and utilities
• Planning funds for the College of Public Health

As the SOM does not fall under the outcomes-based higher education funding formula, Dr. Roth will be proposing seven metrics of accountability to produce an HSC report card for legislators.

What the Committee Members Were Asking:
Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Albuquerque) and Sen. John Sapien (D-Bernalillo) had several questions about the cost and process involved with establishing the College of Public Health. 

Dr. Roth replied that the HSC is working with NMSU to build on strengths from both institutions, and a financial model is still in development.

Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) had questions about the hospital mil levy issues being raised by by some legislators as well as the proposed UNMH 96-bed hospital expansion. After learning that the state Dept. of Health cut the Project ECHO contract for budgetary reasons and then reverted $10 million back to the General Fund, Varela and several other committee members suggested money would be found to restore the program. Varela also spoke of the need for recurring funding for the Ben and Carmen Lujan Lung Cancer Research program.

After hearing from Dr. Roth that several of the HSC programs faced funding issues because of several years of budget cuts, committee chair Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), in true Dr. No fashion, questioned why the HSC would ask for brand-new initiatives like BA/DDS and the College of Public Health.

Dr. Roth replied that they are being responsive to the greatest needs in New Mexico.

Sen. Smith suggested this was the time to move cautiously as the last thing the state needs is to start programs that can't be sustained.

Teacher Education Program Evaluation
LFC analysts presented a 60-page report that evaluated the six largest College of Education programs in the state, looking at how teachers and administrators are prepared based on the premise that COEs play a major role in student outcomes. The report recommended higher licensure standards that could be coupled to higher starting pay; researching student outcome and teacher retention by institution; establishing performance benchmarks for each college of education; and raise admission standards and increase clinical teacher preparation requirements.

UNM College of Education Dean Dick Howell told legislators that the COEs, following national accountability trends, have been working toward higher teacher preparation standards and welcome this clarification of the process. But he cautioned that in an ongoing evaluation, it must be recognized that half of the state's teachers come from out of state or the smaller programs not included in the report. He questioned how they would be accounted for in the research. NMSU Education Dean Michael Moorhead panned standardized testing as a means to measure learning, which led to a lengthy discussion about the effectiveness of the study.

The LFC will be meeting through tomorrow, when capital outlay is on the agenda.

By Susan McKinsey, Office of Government and Community Relations