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Editorial: All NM students deserve state-funded textbooks

It is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the legality of New Mexico’s nearly 30-year practice of buying textbooks for all students, regardless of where they go to school.

Let’s hope the justices in D.C. agree with the judges on two lower state courts that all taxpayer dollars deserve respect, not just those that come from parents who send their children to public school. And hope they embrace the principle that all New Mexico property owners help fund the state’s 89 public school districts and charter schools with their tax dollars.

After all, the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund, which makes money off oil and natural gas leases, provides more than a half-billion dollars annually to beneficiaries including the state’s public schools. That fund and the resources that replenish it belong to all New Mexicans.

Just as residents who don’t have children in public schools still pay taxes to those schools for the greater public good, so do families who choose to put their children in private schools. Shouldn’t the latter at least get secular textbooks for their contribution? State district and appellate court judges agreed they should in New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools v. Moses.

Unfortunately, last year the New Mexico Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Edward Chavez, parted ways with the ruling that “the legislative intent in promoting the education of all school children in New Mexico deserves greater weight” than plaintiffs’ concern of where that education is happening.

For almost three decades, until the state Supreme Court ruling, New Mexico honored both tax dollars, and the separation of church and state by covering only nonreligious textbooks for private schools. And that should be the focus when the federal high court takes up the case – that, as part of the greater good, all of New Mexico’s students get the educational materials their parents, guardians and other New Mexicans pay into the system for.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.