On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled in the case that the state of New Mexico violated the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The consolidated lawsuit was filed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The Plaintiffs argued that the New Mexico public schools are inadequately funded.
The Court ruling centered on the guaranteed right under the New Mexico Constitution to a sufficient education for all children. The lawsuit alleged a severe lack of state funding, resources and services to help students, particularly children from low-income families, students of color, including Native Americans, English-language learners and students with disabilities.
REPORT FROM YAZZIE-MARTINEZ COUNCIL
In the 2019-2020 school year, the Albuquerque Public School System (APS) formed the Yazzie-Martinez Council to deal with implementation of the public education mandates of the Yazzie-Martinez consolidated lawsuit. The council includes parents, some students and instructors. Half of the council must be made up of people who represent the communities of students identified in the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit.
The panel told the APD board that during the coming semester, the council said it hopes to integrate its members into standing district committees and departments, including curriculum and instruction, special education, and the Indian Parent Committee. The goal of the panel is pave the way for systemic change in the district by providing research and advice on key issues.
On June 8, the Yazzie-Martinez Council updated the APS board on the input it has had during an instruction and accountability meeting. It was reported that the council has been involved with several APS projects, including its strategic framework, federal funding applications, assessing needs for Native American students, and coming into compliance with New Mexico’s Black Education and Crown acts from last year.
New Mexico’s Crown Act prevents school districts from discriminating against students for hairstyles or headdresses based on race or culture. Earlier in the week, the school board discussed possible changes to APS policy for discipline and dress code.
Other district initiatives were discussed. APS is anticipating it will receive over $75.5 million in at-risk funding during the coming fiscal year.
Chief of Schools Yvonne Garcia said the council’s goals include bolstering its numbers in the coming months and told the APS Board that its struggling with membership. She said that that the council will give “ongoing feedback, and not just when things get large.”
Progress was reported in a few of the areas. However, it was reported that New Mexico still has a way to go before the needs of “at risk” students are fully met.
YAZZIE-MARTINEZ ACTION PLAN DISCUSSED
On June 8, the APS School Board held discussions on the New Mexico Public Education Department’s draft action plan on the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. A few board members expressed concern about the draft’s career-planning component’. APS Board members said more needed to be done to encourage a diverse array of students into college-bound tracks and vocational paths.
APS Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova said this:
“Where I feel the plan falls really flat is really around the career education and career-planning piece. They just tell schools to do it – ‘just do it.’ … I don’t feel that there’s really a strong vision or cohesion around that whole concept.”
APS Board Member Josefina Domínguez chimed in and said this:
“I also think we need to police ourselves very carefully about who gets encouraged to do a non-college path, because history can very easily … repeat itself.”
Superintendent Scott Elder has said that the new language in APS policies was part of “(creating) an environment where … all students feel comfortable and welcome.”
Spokeswoman Monica Armenta said APS has gathered feedback on dress code and discipline issues for around a year. The changes will go before the board for final approval the week of June 13.
YAZZIE V. STATE/ MARTINEZ ACTION PLAN
On May 14, the New Mexico Public Education Department released a detailed plan to address the landmark public education court case of Yazzie v. State/Martinez and mandated reforms to improve the New Mexico’s failing public education system and offer better and equal opportunities for all students. The Public Education Department has asked for written feedback from the public on the plan. The window for opportunity for public input closes on Friday, June 17 at 5 p.m.
The release plan by the Grisham administration is and includes improvements for every aspect of the education system. The link to review the plan is here:
According to the draft of the plan, it should be considered as a companion to the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) 2022 Comprehensive Strategic Plan which offers remedies to the Yazzie/Martinez decision embedded throughout. According to the plan, the work that lies ahead for NMPED and schools will require systemic change to address the needs of the students and families impacted by decades of neglect and underfunding, including students with disabilities, Native American students, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students. These students account for over 70% of the population in New Mexico’s public schools.
The action plan states that for New Mexico students and their families to realize their full potential, it is incumbent upon both NMPED and its partners, especially the school districts, to do their part in ensuring educational equity, excellence, and relevance for all students. By implementing the recommendations in this plan, all of New Mexico’s public-school students will benefit.
According to the plan of action, NMPED is planning a future in which students are engaged in a culturally and linguistically responsive educational system that meets their academic, social, and emotional needs.
To that end, this action plan is focused on the following long-term goals:
1. Assuring external factors like race, language, economic status, and family situations do not equate with lower rates of success in educational achievement and career prospects.
2. Increasing academic proficiency in math, science, and languages to ensure that all students graduate well prepared for the ever-changing world of college, career, and civic engagement.
3. Eliminating achievement gaps among New Mexico students, particularly English learners, economically disadvantaged students, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, and students with disabilities.
4. Respecting, honoring, and preserving students’ home languages and cultures by implementing culturally and linguistically responsive instruction and learning for all students.
The action plan contains some very big picture goals for public education in New Mexico.
Graduation rates in the last few years have been in the low to mid-70s. The education department wants the statewide graduation rate to get to 90% by 2027. Education leaders also want to close graduation gaps between ethnicities and disadvantaged students.
Another target is improving reading and math proficiency rates. PED leaders want those up by 50% in the next four years.
The plan also focuses on teachers, class sizes, and building on recent successes, including increases in funding. Just this year, the state legislature passed pay raises for teachers and more money for Pre-K programs.
Since the lawsuit, the state has boosted help for economically disadvantaged students, those with disabilities and English learners. It’s also upped funding for more reading programs, extended learning time and more and better internet access.
Outside of funding, PED leadership points out the launch of equity councils and the work to create a response team just for the lawsuit.
The link to news source material is here:
HOW PED ACTION PLAN TO BE USED
The general public and public education advocacy groups have until June 17 to review and comment on the Public Education Department (PED) action plan released. The education plan is likely to drive immediate reforms by the state Public Education Department. The plan is also intended to generate discussion and budget priorities during the 2023 Legislature that will begin in mid-January.
In addition to the Public Education plan put forth, Native American advocacy groups and tribal leaders submitted their own action plan in 2019 calling it the “Tribal Remedy Framework.” The 2019 plan submitted by the tribes cites language of the Yazzie v. State and Martinez lawsuit and then makes recommendations and suggests funding to carry out the recommendations.
The Public Education Action plan will be used in part by the State District Court Judge assigned the Yazzie v. State and Martinez case to determine whether the state court continues to keep watch over spending and initiatives to improve public education. The 2018 District Court ruling found that the state investments in education, as well as academic outcomes of students, proved 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.”
PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING
The PED Action Plan makes no funding recommendations. However, it highlights the increases in public education enacted by the 2022 legislature, including teacher salary raises and overall education funding increases. New Mexico funds its schools through the state budget and gross receipts tax revenues and oil and gas production revenues and does not relying on property tax revenues. According to Legislative Finance Committee analysts, public education funding accounts for around 45% of the $8.5 billion general fund budget. Unlike most other states.
The Lujan-Grisham Administration in the action plan point out an overhaul of social studies standards that expands focus on Native American history and identity. Those changes have been welcomed by education advocates.
Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said the draft is intended to provide a long-term guide and that more specific details will be added after the public comment period. Hayden had this to say:
[“The education reforms were developed] collaboratively across many agencies and there is shared understanding and accountability on the part of agencies to get this critical work done. ”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
2022 NEW MEXICO LEGISLATIVE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCTION
During the 2022 New Mexico legislative session, annual spending for public education increased dramatically. Annual spending on K-12 grade public education was increased by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% boost.
Starting July 1, the base pay for teachers will rise to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on the level of a teacher. According to a fiscal impact report, New Mexico’s average teacher salary was just under $55,000 a year. That’s lower than Colorado, Texas and Utah, but higher than Arizona and Oklahoma. Legislators also approved a measure to allow Indigenous language teachers to be paid at the same rate as their peers, even if they don’t have an undergraduate degree. For Native American language teachers paid as teaching assistants in many districts, their salaries could triple
During the 2022 New Mexico legislative session, 3 bills sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo passed that were are in response to the historic 2018 Yazzie/Martinez court ruling that said New Mexico has denied several groups of students, including Native Americans, their constitutional right to an education. House bills 87, 88 and 90 allocated more than $70 million to tribal entities to help offer culturally relevant lesson plans and access to virtual and after-school programs for those students.
House Bill 87 appropriated $20 million from the state’s general fund to the Indian Education Act to provide educational funding for tribes starting July 1, 2024. The money will be used to create culturally relevant learning programs, including Native language programs, for students in the K-12 system. The Legislative Education Study Committee report said each of the state’s 23 tribal entities would receive $547,826 per year.
House Bill 88 appropriated $21.5 million to help tribal education departments develop learning plans and programs for students, extend learning opportunities and support tribal school libraries. Each tribe and pueblo will get $250,000 a year, with the exception of the Navajo Nation, which would get $500,000, according to the bill’s fiscal report.
House Bill 90 was aimed at higher education. It appropriated $29.6 million to four state colleges and three tribal colleges for 53 initiatives, such as building a Native American teacher pipeline and expanding high school-to-college programs to encourage those students to attend college. The bill’s fiscal impact report says it is assumed the bill would go into effect 90 days after the last day of the Legislature.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
APS SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES $2 Billion Budget
On June 1, the Albuquerque Public School Board approved a nearly $2 Billion dollar budget for the upcoming fiscal year the commenced-on July 1, 2020. It was a split vote of 4 to 3. Board members Yolanda Montoya-Cordova, Peggy Muller-Aragón, Barbara Petersen and Josefina Domínguez voted yes on the proposed budget, while Danielle Gonzales, Crystal Tapia-Romero and Courtney Jackson voted no. Several board members expressed concerned over how much the $1.936 billion budget had grown from last year’s $1.868 billion. They also questioned where cuts were made.
The biggest portion of the budget goes to the operational fund which accounts for nearly 45% of the total budget at over $869.1 million. APS is projected to spend $10.3 million more than it will collect this year. That amount is less than last year, when the district’s deficit was around $45 million. The district’s savings from vacancies will be approximately $7.9 million. $2.4 million will also be used from APS’ $52.7 million cash reserve to balance the budget.
During the June 1 meeting to approve the budget, information on the proposed budget included staff allocations, “at-risk” funding and programs and budget cuts. The cuts presented included 70 support staff positions, 36 elective courses and 27 administrative positions being cut across all grades. Only 16 instructional positions were cut.
The approved budget includes spending of over $27.6 million on increases for teacher salaries and over $39.5 million on 7% raises for public education staff.
APS employee raises will be paid in two phases with 3% payments for this year’s fourth quarter then followed up with an additional 4% raise next fiscal year. Teacher raises will be increased if they don’t reach the average $10,000 minimum salary increases for teachers, or the new minimum $15 per hour wage.
On May 31, APS and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation announced a tentative agreement on raises for many instructional support providers. The agreement guarantees some 850 licensed employees would be given the same minimum salary increases that were legislated for teachers earlier this year.
Over $3.5 million is set aside in the proposed budget for other at-risk service providers. During last week’s meeting, Executive Director of Budget Rosalinda Montoya said those included nurses, counselors, social workers and other instructional support providers.
STATE FUNDING INCREASES
State funding will sharply increase in the coming fiscal year that starts on July 1. The state funding increase is the direct result of raises approved by the 2022 legislative session for teachers and other public education employees. APS received $719.3 million in 2022 and is expecting $787.4 million in state funds next year. Despite the over $68 million rise in state funds, APS expects increased costs will exceed money from the state by over $12.2 million.
During its last meeting, the board also approved emergency money for fuel allocated by the Public Education Department. In May, APS was allocated $467,898 for increased fuel costs in 2022. Transportation is expected to run the district over $21.4 million. APS estimated fuel cost increases at $373,000.
Link to quoted news source material is here:
On Friday, May 13, legislative economist told the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee that state revenue collections for the current budget year are up by more than $440 million than was projected in December 2021. The large cash infusion to the state no doubt will allow for more spending in areas to deal with the public education mandates of the Yazzie v. Martinez landmark decision.