Documenting Tips for Addressing Education Gaps in New Mexico

SANTA FE, NM (AP) – New Mexico education officials this month outlined a plan to treat an ongoing lawsuit over educational opportunities for Indigenous and low-income students as an achievement the outgoing Secretary of Education.

But a draft of the document obtained by The Associated Press shows that it offers few details to correct systemic inequalities in the state’s public school system.

The 100-page document outlines strategies to resolve a 2018 state court decision that found New Mexico failed to provide “adequate” education to most of the students required by the constitution. ‘State.

In most cases, the project reiterates the general objectives of the state’s Department of Public Education without presenting specific plans to address the issues identified in the decision.

It prioritizes increasing high-speed internet access, but does not suggest providing high-speed internet access to all students or to all students unable to attend school in person, which District Court Judge Matthew Wilson has ordered this year.

The project was presented to a summit of tribal chiefs when they met with state government officials last week.

The education department plans to release a full version of the proposal by Dec. 1, after obtaining additional comments, the document said. That leaves about four weeks for the public to comment before legislation begins to be tabled next year.

The final draft will likely lead to political discussions ahead of the 2022 legislative session, in which lawmakers will cut the state’s education budget.

“The timing is determined by the need to give the public time to vote before the (legislative) session,” said Department of Public Education spokeswoman Carolyn Graham.

State Representative Derrick Lente, a Democrat who sponsors much of State House legislation supporting Indigenous issues, and other prominent Native American education advocates have complained about not receiving copy of the document by state education officials.

Lente says feast days and other religious holidays in December will limit the audience’s ability to participate.

He said they should publish the document sooner so people have time to contribute.

“It’s insulting to think that they expect the public who, yes education is absolutely a priority, but during the holiday season, to take time out in their life and in their vacations,” said Lente said, “on something like what they’ve had all year to do.

The project focuses on what needs to be done to deal with the trial, but not necessarily who will and how.

The 2018 decision found that the state provides second-rate education to marginalized groups and has not hired enough qualified teachers who can serve Indigenous students, English learners, or children with disabilities. He also found that poor children did not receive adequate education.

The education department’s draft policy sets goals to increase teacher training and recruitment, reduce dropout and absenteeism rates, and increase funding for ways to support students outside courses, internet consulting and home computers.

One of the few specific recommendations in the report cites the need to increase the remuneration of teachers who obtain Spanish bilingual certifications or Native American language and culture certificates, as well as technical support and training for schools in interventions in absenteeism. Raising the salaries of hard-to-fill positions would attract more applicants, according to the project.

While Justice Wilson’s follow-up rulings in the state court set a specific standard for broadband internet and required students to have access to it, the project does not.

Former Department of Public Education secretary Ryan Stewart said the state follows a federal standard that sets minimum upload and download speeds. The judge issued a higher standard, based on the results, saying all students should be able to participate in a two-way video chat with their teacher.

Wilson also ordered the education department to identify students who lack essential technology. The ministry has not released the data.

Education officials said more detailed recommendations would be included in the version released.

The state’s education department “is developing 90-day action plans that will include specific measurable actions as well as identifying who is responsible for those actions, timelines and metrics for success,” Graham said. .

The education department stressed that the project is not the first effort to resolve the lawsuit.

Since the 2018 ruling, New Mexico has changed the state’s education funding formula so that schools serving Indigenous areas keep millions of dollars in federal funds. instead of subtracting it from their public funding. In response to the pandemic, the education department funded the purchase of laptops for students trapped at home and paid for temporary internet access.

The lawsuit named Martinez-Yazzie for the Hispanic and Indigenous families who joined the lawsuit in 2014 under the administration of Republican Governor Susana Martinez. Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tried unsuccessfully to dismiss the lawsuit last year.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs have estimated in the past that the case covers about 80% of K-12 students in New Mexico. They include Native Americans students, English learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students.

Given that the shutdown of in-person schooling during the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on these types of students, the lawsuit is unlikely to be dismissed anytime soon.


Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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