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NM's 2020 Legislative Session to Again Focus on Education

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she hopes to get $35 million approved this legislative session to offer students free in-state college tuition. (LeoFontes/Pixabay)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she hopes to get $35 million approved this legislative session to offer students free in-state college tuition. (LeoFontes/Pixabay)
January 6, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico is losing experienced educators every day, according to the president of the state's teachers' union, who says steps to increase school funding must be a priority in the 2020 Legislature.

Mary Parr-Sanchez, newly-elected to head the National Education Association-New Mexico, was a Las Cruces middle-school teacher for 25 years. She said New Mexico took "baby steps" in 2019 to address long-term funding for education, and lawmakers need to do more if the state hopes to retain experienced classroom personnel.

"Because it is wearing out our experienced educators," Parr-Sanchez said, "especially in the area of bilingual education."

She said many bilingual teachers leave to find employment in other states that pay more. New Mexico's public school system consistently ranks at the bottom among states, and was found by the courts to be "constitutionally negligent" in providing adequate funding, in a ruling on the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit.

After the lawsuit, the New Mexico Legislature in 2019 appropriated an additional almost $500 million for the state's Public Education Department - money largely available due to the state's booming oil and gas industry. Parr-Sanchez said the oil and gas windfall was a boost, but noted it may not last.

"I feel an urgency that we get different funding streams, because oil and gas is a 'boom-and-bust' economy, and we can't run our schools in that kind of funding situation," she said.

A new funding measure, House Bill 83, has already been filed for the upcoming legislative session, which begins January 17. The governor has said she plans to prioritize the bill, which would appropriate $320 million from the state's General Fund to start a new Early Childhood Education and Care Fund.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM