BLOOMFIELD — Gov. Susana Martinez stopped in Bloomfield on Thursday and delivered a stump speech in her bid for re-election, touting the progress New Mexico has made in education.
"We are moving the needle up," she said to about 90 people at the Roadside Restaurant in Bloomfield.
She spoke for about 20 minutes before she answered questions for another 10 minutes. Martinez is running for re-election against New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat.
Martinez said in her tenure New Mexico has increased reading scores for elementary school students, made gains in academic performance among Hispanic students and implemented an A to F school grading system.
"We continue to move forward with the reforms we put in place," she said.
She said her experience as a prosecutor brought to her attention reading proficiency among the juveniles she prosecuted.
"They just couldn't read at the levels they should have, and they ended up in trouble," she said.
Martinez said she has made reading coaches available to help students at school districts throughout the state increase their reading proficiency.
She also praised the new grading system for schools, calling it simple and easy to understand.
"We grade our schools just like we do our kids — A, B, C, D, F. You understand it. A parent understands it," she said. "We know what a B school is and what an F school is."
Critics of the grading system have said it relies too heavily on test scores and doesn't provide a measurement of the school's overall performance.
Martinez also said Hispanic students in New Mexico are ranked No. 1 in the country for success in Advanced Placement classes.
King could not be reached for comment. His campaign website, however, states he wants to focus on early education.
"We're dead last in how we deal with the welfare of our children," he said in a YouTube video posted on his site.
In the video, he cites an Annie E. Casey Foundation study that ranked New Mexico 49th in "overall child well-being."
King has advocated using the state's land grant permanent fund to invest in early childhood education.
"Twenty years from now, we will have New Mexicans ready to enter the workforce and be the best they can be," he said in the video. "This is an investment in our people."
During the question-and-answer portion of Martinez's speech, one man said he disapproved of undocumented immigrants obtaining New Mexico driver's licenses.
Martinez vowed to continue fighting to overturn the law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain state-issued driver's licenses.
"I have tried four times (to overturn the law) and I will not give up. We will try again," she said.
Aztec resident Linda Spiker said she would like to see New Mexico voters vote on gay marriage, which the state's highest court legalized last year.
She asked Martinez how to do that. Martinez advised her to "get signatures," adding that the deadline has passed for voter referendums to be added to this year's election.
Karen Bayless said she supports Martinez's stance on education. Bayless is a former Republican candidate for District 1 in the New Mexico House of Representatives who lost in the primaries to Rod Montoya.
"I support the governor because she's making a difference in education," she said. "We can't go back to what we had. We'd be failing our own kids."