As our families come together, build and relive memories and are able to bond with one another, we are reminded of what’s important about this time of year; building a community centered on the well-being and success of one another.
Since the beginning of 2019, New Mexicans have been able to experience the start to an intentional transformation of our children’s education, an education that is grounded in community needs and experiences in order to build the right path to ensure that every child in New Mexico succeeds in and out of school.
Much of this transformation is owed to the victory provided to the public by tireless education advocates, and most importantly, brave families and parents, like Wilhelmina Yazzie, who came forward to demand an end to the substandard education system N.M’.s children were receiving.
The premise behind the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit is that all children should be afforded an education that will give them the skills to succeed in life. This effort resulted in a 2018 ruling from Judge Sarah Singleton ordering the state “to take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary, including sufficient funding to provide all students with a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and careers.”
Furthermore, under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the state has taken on the task of reinvigorating the Public Education Department by recruiting highly qualified experts in the field, increasing funding for schools, and working toward the goal of redesigning an education system where New Mexico students can thrive by proactively seeking community involvement in the process.
While important strides were made this year, it is necessary to note that there are many challenges still ahead. Of course, … (it) is no easy task to undo decades of damage to our state’s education (system). Yet, the fact that the majority of our state officials and our current administration don’t undermine the issues at hand, but rather understand their severity, is a win for New Mexico families.
There are ongoing efforts that provide reassurance that New Mexico is on the right path for a better education system for its children. NMPED makes it clear it understands the inclusion of community voices is essential in the process of rebuilding our state’s education (system).
A recent NMPED memo addressed to all NMPED staff, districts, charter schools, higher education institutions, tribes, families, and other education stakeholders calls for the creation of “District and Charter School Equity Councils.” This is the type of opportunity community members have been waiting for in order to provide input into the creation of culturally and linguistically relevant education for our present and future generations.
The description provided in the NMPED memo details how councils will be made up of selected community members who will provide “leadership to create an [education] equity plan … specific to the needs of economically disadvantaged students, Native American students, English learners, and students with disabilities.”
As parents, involved community members and advocates for our children’s and students’ education, the creation of equity councils signals, with clarity, that NMPED is not simply operating from a legally compliant standpoint. Instead, there is sincerity in their efforts to empower communities to be part of the much needed transformation our children deserve.
Together we must continue to work with a common long-term vision. A vision which will help us achieve the goal of building strong communities centered on the well-being and success of one another.
Thara Lechuga and Lilia Valenzuela are parents of children educated in New Mexico public schools.