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Will Courts Rule NM Kids Deserve Better Education?

New Mexico students return to the classroom this week as a judge decides whether the state will be required to change the way public schools are funded. (teacher.org)
New Mexico students return to the classroom this week as a judge decides whether the state will be required to change the way public schools are funded. (teacher.org)
August 14, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. – Teachers in New Mexico facing larger class sizes and fewer resources when they return to the classroom this week hope a pending judgment in a lawsuit will force the state to do something about the situation.

The lawsuit alleges the state's education system fails to meet its constitutional obligation to students by inadequately funding public schools.

Jennifer Trujillo, school improvement coordinator for Bernalillo Public Schools, says she has seen disturbing changes in her 16 years as an educator.

"When I first started teaching, there were a lot of grants that were provided, and now we don't see that funding anymore,” she states. “We had different programs like tutoring programs, after-school programs – those are all gone. "

In an eight-week trial, the state countered that low student performance doesn't mean the system is unconstitutional. If the judge rules otherwise, New Mexico could be required to increase school funding and distribute the money more equitably among school districts.

No matter the ruling, the case could end up at the state Supreme Court.

Gov. Susana Martinez has defended state school spending as more than adequate, but three out of four New Mexico students can't read or write at grade level, and two-thirds can't do math at grade level.

Gail Evans, legal director for New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, says students without an adequate education can't contribute to New Mexico's future.

"We haven't had the resources that we've needed for our students, so that we can actually graduate kids who can go out in the world and compete for jobs, and actually attract business to New Mexico because we have a well-educated populace," she states.

Groups in New Mexico aren't alone in resorting to the court system to intervene for education. Arizona, Kansas and Washington are facing similar lawsuits as educators feel left out of state budget priorities and parents say the quality of education has declined.


Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM