New Mexico loses education lawsuit - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico loses education lawsuit

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education, a state judge ruled Friday in a blistering, landmark decision.

Judge Sarah Singleton ordered the governor and Legislature to establish a funding system that meets constitutional requirements by April 15 next year.

In the 75-page decision, Singleton rejected arguments by Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration that the education system is improving and doesn’t necessarily need more funding. She also turned back arguments that the state was doing the best with what it had.

As “a legal matter,” Singleton wrote, “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights.”

And it’s clear that many students aren’t receiving the education they should, she said.

The evidence at trial “proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career,” Singleton said. “Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement.”

A spokeswoman for the state Public Education Department said the department “is in the process of reviewing the opinion.”

She wouldn’t address whether the state planned to appeal the decision.

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairwoman of the Legislative Education Study Committee, said the judge “wasn’t prescriptive” in what has to happen next, but rather left it to lawmakers and the governor to develop a plan.

But the solution, she said, will have to address teacher salaries and resources for Native American youth.

“I’m thankful for this judge telling us to get our acts together,” Stewart told the Journal.

Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, said she was pleased with the ruling.

“Public educators see the effects from the prolonged reduction of funding to our schools and educational institutions on a daily basis,” she said in a written statement. “We hope the incoming administration and the legislature will use this ruling as a wake up call to act on behalf of our students, their families, educators, and the well being of public education in our state.”

Lack of teachers, technology

The judge, for her part, said New Mexico doesn’t have enough teachers. There was also testimony that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, she said.

“The evidence shows that school districts do not have the funds to pay for all the teachers they need,” Singleton wrote. “Gadsden, one of the better performing school districts in the state, has had to eliminate over 53 classroom positions and 15 essential teachers since 2008.”

The judge also faulted the lack of access to technology in rural districts and suggested the state teacher evaluation system “may be contributing to the lower quality of teachers in high-need schools.”

“In general,” Singleton said, “punitive teacher evaluation systems that penalize teachers for working in high-need schools contribute to problem in this category of schools.”

And she wasn’t persuaded by arguments that no new funding is needed because at-risk student performances are improving.

“The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non at-risk students,” Singleton said, “and the programs being lauded by PED are not changing this picture.”

Her ruling came after a nearly two-month trial wrapped up last August. Nearly 80 witnesses testified.

The consolidated lawsuit, filed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, argued that the state’s schools are inadequately funded.

The case is listed under Yazzie v. state of New Mexico and Martinez v. state of New Mexico.

It centers on a right, guaranteed by the state constitution, to a sufficient education for all children.

The lawsuit alleged a lack of resources and services to help students, particularly youngsters from low-income families, students of color – including Native Americans – English-language learners and students with disabilities

“My son just tested as gifted, but his school doesn’t have the curriculum or resources to push him to his full potential,” James Martinez, a plaintiff in the Yazzie lawsuit, said in a written statement. “The kids who are falling behind have it much worse. All kids should have the same opportunity to learn, progress, and succeed.”

Start of planning

House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, called on PED to immediately begin putting together a plan to comply with the judge’s ruling.

The state is in decent financial position to earmark more money for public education, she said, but she cautioned much of a recent revenue uptick stems from a spike in oil production in southeast New Mexico.

“Whatever we come up with, I hope we have the steady revenue stream to keep it going so we don’t end up back in court,” Lundstrom said.

Stewart said she wasn’t surprised by Friday’s decision.

“I’ve talked to my other colleagues and no one is surprised and it’s a bit shameful none of us are surprised,” she said.

Journal Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this article.

 

Home » News » New Mexico News » New Mexico loses education lawsuit

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
1 found dead with apparent gunshot wounds near Candelaria ...
ABQnews Seeker
Police closed Candelaria from Pan American ... Police closed Candelaria from Pan American Freeway to High Street while they investigate early.
2
Fine with Fido: 7 Albuquerque-area bars and restaurants that ...
ABQnews Seeker
Coffee houses, food halls and breweries ... Coffee houses, food halls and breweries all appear on our round-up of of dog-loving businesses.
3
Grammer: When it comes to fans, the obnoxious few ...
ABQnews Seeker
Utah State guard Max Shulga showed ... Utah State guard Max Shulga showed class in his response to unacceptable taunts from a few Colorado State students.
4
Man critically injured in Santa Fe shooting
ABQnews Seeker
A man was critically injured after ... A man was critically injured after being shot in a Santa Fe apartment complex on Saturday night.
5
Three teenagers found dead in garage in Edgewood
ABQnews Seeker
Police said in a news release ... Police said in a news release there is no indication of foul play and it appears to have been carbon monoxide poisoning.
6
Man, woman killed in Hobbs hit-and-run crash
ABQnews Seeker
A man and a woman were ... A man and a woman were killed in Hobbs on Friday night after being struck by a vehicle while walking their dog, according to ...
7
Child, 10, allegedly sexually assaulted by foster teen at ...
ABQnews Seeker
The offices of the state child ... The offices of the state child welfare agency are used to house foster children despite New Mexico’s promise to provide them with appropriate homes.
8
Civilians fill in for sworn officers at Albuquerque Police ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said ... Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he sees hiring civilians as "the forefront of the wave of the future." He added: "The civilians are ...
9
How close did Albuquerque come to a record-high temperature?
ABQnews Seeker
Temperatures in the Duke City reached ... Temperatures in the Duke City reached 63 degrees, said Jennifer Shoemake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. That was the warmest ...