Open Letter To House Committee Members On House Memorial 63

Letter To The Editor_Pongratz Endorses Chris Chandler For House District 43 Seat (23).jpg

OPEN LETTER TO HOUSE LOCAL GOVERNMENT, LAND GRANTS AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE MEMBERS

I am writing to you today to voice my support for HM63, which authorizes a study of the allocation of GRT taxes from Los Alamos National Laboratory. As a point of history, my family were homesteaders on the Pajarito Plateau, my grandfather working first for the CCC under FDR, then at Boys School as a cook, and finally as an electrician during Manhattan. My uncle’s birth certificate reads PO Box 1663. I grew up in the Pojoaque Valley, attending K-10 in the Pojoaque School District. I then transferred to Los Alamos for my last two years in order to take more AP classes. I am currently an R&D Scientist III at the laboratory, having now spent the better part of two decades in the field of nuclear safeguards since earning my B.S. degree in computer science from UNM in 2004. Some might call me a homegrown and home-educated success.

It is from that vantage point that I wish to bring the schools and communities closest to LANL up to the level of excellence and service as the town itself enjoys. 55% of LANL employees do not live on the “Hill”. It is a sad state of affairs to say that through my volunteer efforts I have found that the gap that existed when I transferred >25 years ago has done nothing but widen.

To highlight some of these disparities, here are some statistics I have collected about the four communities closest to LANL.

School district spending per student:

Los Alamos $7780.65
Pojoaque $5,374.27
Espanola $5,555.64
Taos $5,430.35

PED school grades by district:

Los Alamos — 6 schools 3 A’s 2 B’s 1 C — Average GPA 3.33
Pojoaque — 5 schools 1 B 3 D’s 1 F — Average GPA 1.2
Espanola — 12 schools 1 A, 3 B, 1 C, 5 D’s, 2 F’s — Average GPA 1.67
Taos — 10 schools 2 A’s, 1 B, 2 C’s, 3 D’s, 2 F’s — Average GPA 1.8

High school graduation rates by district:

Los Alamos 86.6%
Pojoaque 77.8%
Espanola 65.5%
Taos 68.7%

Per capita and median household income by county:

Los Alamos $49,474/$118,993
Santa Fe $32,188/$64,041
Rio Arriba $19,913/$47,840
Taos $15,983/$33,564

Teacher salaries in NM by district:

Los Alamos $50,253
Pojoaque $47,165
Espanola $46,010
Taos $46,197

While statistics do not correlate exactly with outcomes, the continuing pattern of a socioeconomic gaps between Los Alamos and its neighbors with regard to funding and access to resources by its schools is stark. I urge you all to consider supporting HM63 and at least get a study done to quantify a solution.

Thank you for your time,

HEATHER NORDQUIST
Proud Pojoaque Alum, Los Alamos Graduate,
UNM graduate, first-generation college grad and Los Alamos scientist.