Note: this is the sixth installment in our series on policies passed during the 2019 legislative session that will improve equity in New Mexico. You can read the introduction, which gives more information on what we mean by ‘equity’ and what the disparities are, and link to previous blogs in this series here.

By Lauren Winkler
Sept. 18, 2019

The Yazzie/Martinez decision is a watershed moment for the state of New Mexico – a chance to finally transform the education system for our students – especially our children of color and those considered ‘at-risk.’ After decades of ranking at or near 50th in education, the state has an opportunity to do right by New Mexico’s students – to build a multicultural, multilingual educational framework and to provide all students the opportunities they need to learn and thrive.

Despite passing an increase in funding during the 2019 legislative session, the Legislature has failed to comply with Judge Singleton’s order, and New Mexico’s children still lack the basics necessary for a constitutionally sufficient education.

The Yazzie/Martinez ruling requires the state to provide educational programs, services, and funding to schools to prepare students so they are college and career ready. This means that the state must comply with and fully implement laws like the New Mexico Indian Education Act, the Bilingual Multicultural Education Act, and the Hispanic Education Act. It also means that the state must provide access to programs and services like pre-K, extended learning time, social services, and literacy programming to all students.

But our Legislature did not do nearly enough for our students in the 2019 session, and school districts are unable to provide sufficient programming and supports for students, like bilingual education and social services this school year. In fact, many districts have been forced to cut basic programs like reading intervention and drop-out/truancy prevention, and they cannot meet the demand for pre-K programs.

The Legislature ignored multiple warnings that school districts would not be able to access much of the current funding increase, appropriated to K-5 Plus and the extended learning time programs, because of the strict requirements placed on the programs’ implementation.

By the time the laws were passed, districts had little time to consult with teachers and parents to determine whether the districts could apply for the programs. Many districts did not apply for funding because they found that the money available would not cover the actual cost of the programs; the program requirements were too strict and inflexible; and they did not have time to determine whether they could implement the programs.

The remaining increase in education funding this past session was spent on a much-needed raise for educators. Once districts allocated funds for the modest six percent raise, they did not have enough funding for basic educational necessities that would bring the state into compliance with the court’s ruling.

New Mexico’s students still lack a sufficient system of education to which they are legally entitled. The 2019 legislative session failed to:

  • Cover basic instructional materials and technology for classrooms;
  • Ensure teaching is tailored to the unique cultural and linguistic needs of our students, including English-language learners and indigenous communities;
  • Adequately expand access to pre-K, summer school, after-school programs, reading specialists, and smaller class sizes;
  • Ensure social services, counseling, health care and literacy specialists are available to all students who need them;
  • Invest in our educators to attract and retain new teachers and expand their qualifications, especially for special education, science, and bilingual education; and
  • Adequately increase the transportation budget to ensure all students have the opportunity to participate in after-school and summer programs.

It is imperative that the Legislature recognize that it will take more to transform the public education system and to comply with New Mexico’s constitution. It is time for the state to invest the necessary resources in education to ensure all students have the opportunity to be college and career ready. We cannot afford to fail another generation of students.

Lauren Winkler is an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.