From teacher salaries to a multicultural education framework, legislation seeks to improve New Mexico’s education system

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO—Several of the court-mandated remedies to fix the New Mexico education system were discussed at a press event on Monday in the Roundhouse Rotunda, where legislators, students, parents, and lawsuit plaintiffs explained precisely what is necessary to ensure that students’ constitutional right to a quality education is no longer violated.

The remedies include a multicultural education framework, improved bilingual and English language learner programming, universal and quality full-day pre-kindergarten, sufficient access to extended learning opportunities like summer school and after school programming, social services, smaller class sizes, and increased teacher pay and support to recruit and retain high-quality educators.

“These aren’t pie-in-the-sky wishes from concerned parents—we’re working with legislators on bills that represent the minimum fixes needed to meet the court’s order and the rights of our students,” said Victoria Tafoya, Director of the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education and spokesperson for the Transform Education NM Coalition. “We have a unique opportunity to give all of our students across the state the chance to succeed, and that’s what these pieces of legislation aim to do.”

Proposed legislation for 2019 is based on the Transform Education NM Platform, a comprehensive  blueprint for action to fix New Mexico’s schools. Based on the input of 300+ diverse community stakeholders and two million pages of documentation and expert testimony of educators, economists, and academic researchers as part of the Yazzie/Martinez trial, the platform is the roadmap to successfully transforming the state’s education system.

“Teachers are the heart of education,” said Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Majority Floor Leader of the New Mexico House and sponsor of HB 171, which raises the minimum wage for teachers. “We have among the lowest teacher wages in the country, and one of the highest turnover rates. To be competitive with surrounding states, and to be compliant with the court order, teacher salaries must be increased and must be adjusted yearly for inflation.”

Representative Tomás E. Salazar is sponsoring HB 111, HB 120, and HB 159 to ensure a multicultural, bilingual framework is at the core of the education system. “The bills sponsored by myself and my fellow legislators align to an overall platform that was developed by teachers, superintendents, parents, tribal education experts, and many others. For the first time, we’ve really listened to New Mexicans on what we need to redesign the education system here. We have the knowledge and expertise, and I’m proud to carry these bills.”

Although 76 percent of New Mexico public school students are culturally and linguistically diverse, the court found that the State is violating New Mexico laws that require a multicultural and bilingual framework for New Mexico’s schools. Multiculturalism and bilingualism must be reflected in curriculum, teacher development and in building pathways for teachers.

“As an immigrant, I believe we should be valuing our diversity and seeing it as a strength,” said Michelle Soto, a high school student and member of the New Mexico Dream Team who spoke at the event. “We know that students who are more connected to their culture and community do better in school and we need to strengthen the power of that connection. We can no longer leave some of our students behind.”

Education funding in New Mexico is closely tied to the oil and gas industry, and thereby dependent on the price of oil. While the industry is doing well, and the state legislature is currently operating with a budget surplus, the tax revenue that supports our schools is volatile.

“Big change requires a big investment, and a big investment is what we need to build a world-class education system,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children and former Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration. “Education in New Mexico has been underfunded for decades. We need to ensure that our schools are sufficiently-resourced to comply with the court’s order, and we need to be certain those resources are sustainable. We need to get off the oil and gas boom-to-bust roller coaster. Legislators need to look at our tax system and make sure it is fair for working families and that our revenue system is stable and sustainable.”

Transform Education NM’s platform and factsheets on the coalition’s legislation can be found here:  http://nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

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Transform Education NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s education system for our students.

Transform Education NM to share legislative agenda at press conference MONDAY

Transform Education NM, a broad coalition of teachers, parents, students, district superintendents, bilingual experts, and non-profit organizations, will hold a press event on Monday, January 21, at 2:00 p.m. in the Rotunda at the New Mexico State Capital. The Coalition will share its legislative agenda that aligns with its Platform for Action, which was developed in collaboration with hundreds of educational and tribal leaders, families, and informed directly by the court’s decision.

WHAT:

Transform Education NM press event in the Rotunda

WHO:

  • Wilhelmina Yazzie, plaintiff in the Yazzie v. State of New Mexico lawsuit
  • Victoria Tafoya, Transform Education NM & New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education
  • Representative Tomás E. Salazar
  • Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Majority Floor Leader
  • Michelle Soto, high school student
  • James Jimenez, NM Voices for Children

WHEN:

Monday, January 21, 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: 

Roundhouse Rotunda
New Mexico State Capital
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87501

OTHER:

The press event will be streamed via Facebook Live: www.Facebook.com/TransformEducationNM

*Presenters, students, educators, and other coalition members will be available immediately after the press for one-on-one interviews.

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Transform Eduction NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s education system for our students.

Court order supports call to transform New Mexico’s school system

New court document explains precisely how state is not meeting constitutional requirements for a sufficient education

ALBUQUERQUE—Judge Sarah Singleton’s most recent order in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico makes clear that the court expects a major overhaul of the state’s public school system to bring it into compliance with the constitution and other state laws.

The extensive 600-page “findings of fact and conclusions of law” describes in great detail the need for a multicultural education framework, improved bilingual and English language learner programming, universal and quality full-day pre-kindergarten, sufficient access to extended learning opportunities like summer school and after school programming, social services, smaller class sizes, and increased teacher pay and support to recruit and retain high-quality educators.  

“The court’s ruling couldn’t be more clear: the programs and services that work must be made available immediately to all children, not just some children,” said Gail Evans, lead counsel for the Yazzie plaintiffs for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The state has failed a generation of children but now has a historic opportunity, and a legal obligation, to rise to the occasion and provide our children the educational opportunities they need to succeed. No more excuses. No more nickel and diming our kids. The time to fix our schools is now.”

The court’s order mandates that the state take immediate steps, by April 15, 2019, to ensure New Mexico’s schools have the resources necessary to prepare students for college and career.

“I just want what every parent wants, for my children to graduate ready to pursue their dreams. Every New Mexican child deserves that,” said Wilhelmina Yazzie, the lead plaintiff in Yazzie v. State of New Mexico. “My son’s school in Gallup doesn’t have enough resources to provide basic materials for all the students, much less offer the culturally relevant programs he needs. Our children are important, and they are just as capable as any other children in the nation. It’s time for New Mexico to truly transform our public education system – small fixes just don’t cut it.”

The judge’s order provides legal backing to the Transform Education NM platform: a blueprint for action, supported by research and evidence at trial, that sets forth the initial necessary steps to bring the state’s education system into compliance with the constitution. The platform was developed by hundreds of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs.

“Our recommendations for overhauling our school system don’t just constitute a nice wish-list but are requirements to meet the basic needs of our students,” said Veronica Garcia, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, which is one of the plaintiffs in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. “The law is on the side of students across the state. Policymakers need to pass the education legislation necessary to satisfy the judge’s order. We won’t stop advocating until every child in New Mexico has the educational opportunities they deserve.”

“From students to teachers, from curriculum to funding, from early childhood to graduation, we have the unique opportunity to transform our public education system and do right by our students,” said Adan Delgado, Superintendent of Cuba Independent District, one of the other plaintiffs.

“At-risk and Native American students have been left behind for too long in New Mexico,” said Mike Hyatt, superintendent of Gallup McKinley County Schools, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We look forward to working with legislators and the state to turn around our education system to fulfill its constitutional obligation to meet the needs of all students.”

The judge’s order can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Courts-Findings-of-Fact-and-Conclusions-of-Law-2018-12-20.pdf

The Transform Education NM platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Transform-Education-NM-Platform-2018-12-11.pdf

A summary of the platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Transform-Education-NM-2-Page-Platform-Summary.pdf

Join us to transform education in New Mexico!

We are in a historic moment that will define the future of education for children in New Mexico. In just a few weeks, the new governor and our legislators will be making important decisions about our schools. Transform Education NM invites you to join our efforts at this critical time.

Our students are strong, not only because of their intelligence and creativity, but also because of their cultures and communities. Our education system should reflect those strengths. But for decades, the state has violated the constitutional rights of students and failed to provide a sufficient education. Students who are Native American, English language learners, low-income, and students with disabilities have suffered the worst educational disparities.

Because of the landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision this past summer, the state is finally being held accountable for this systemic failure. The court ordered the state to take immediate action to fix our schools.

A PLATFORM FOR ACTION

Together with hundreds of stakeholders, including plaintiffs in the lawsuit, as well as educators, parents, tribal leaders, education experts and community leaders, our coalition has developed a platform for action. Supported by the research and volumes of evidence that led to the court ruling, the platform is a blueprint for transformation for our schools that:

  • Reflects a multicultural and multilingual framework as a foundation for learning.
  • Values our teachers with higher pay and professional development.
  • Provides all children access to pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Ensures access to instructional materials, technology and transportation, and extended learning opportunities like summer school and more classroom time.
  • Expands social services, counseling and healthcare so students come to school ready to learn.
  • Adequately funds the schools to have the resources necessary for our children to learn and succeed, and ensures accountability for the funds.

Click here to find out how you can get involved, endorse the platform, and join the coalition! 

New Mexico is on the verge of big changes—together, we can ensure the success of our children and our state.

Read a summary of the Transform Education NM platform here. Read the full platform here.

Transform Education NM coalition members include:

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, College Horizons, Dual Language Education of NM, Keres Children’s Learning Center, AFT New Mexico (American Federation of Teachers), Native American Community Academy (NACA), NACA Inspired School Network (NISN), Learning Alliance NM, NM Dream Team/United We Dream, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), National Education Association NM (NEA-NM), New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE), Coalition for the Majority, Native American Budget & Policy Institute (NABPI), New Mexico Education Action Alliance, CHI St. Joseph’s Children, NGAGE NM, The Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute, NM School Boards Association, The Sun Project, and current and former superintendents of school districts and plaintiff school districts (Cuba Independent School District, Gallup-McKinley County Schools, Lake Arthur Public Schools, Moriarty Edgewood School District, Rio Rancho Public Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools)

New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee to hear how landmark education ruling could impact Native American students

SANTA FE—Today New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Committee will hear how the recent court decision on New Mexico’s education system could impact Native American students.

The landmark ruling on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico found that the state has failed to provide students—and in particular economically disadvantaged, Native American, and English language learner students—with sufficient educational opportunities as required by the state constitution, the Indian Education Act, and other state laws. The lawsuit was brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Center staff will present the IAC with evidence that New Mexico’s students are just as capable as others across the country. Unfortunately, historical and current injustices and lack of funding for programs and curricula proven to work have led to disparate outcomes for our state’s children, especially for Native students.

Center staff will also present parts of an education transformation platform—agreed upon by over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families—that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

WHAT:    
Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico

WHEN:
Wednesday, November 28 at 10:15 a.m.

WHERE:
State Capitol, Room 322, 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

WHO:
New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee
Preston Sanchez, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Legislative Committee to hear proposed education remedies on Friday  

Reforms would assure compliance with Yazzie/Martinez court ruling

ALBUQUERQUE — On Friday, New Mexico’s Legislative Education Study Committee will hear a platform of proposed remedies that would satisfy the recent state court ruling requirements on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico, which found that the state was not providing New Mexico students with a sufficient education as required by the state constitution.

The lawsuit was brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and families represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

Over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families, agreed upon a platform that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, extends the school year, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF will present to the LESC.

WHAT:    
Legislative Education Study Committee hearing on proposed remedies adhering to the recent state court ruling requirements on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico.

WHEN:
Friday, September 28 at 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

WHERE:   
Hawthorne Elementary School, 420 General Somervell St. NE, Albuquerque, NM

WHO:
LESC
Attorneys from New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
Attorneys from MALDEF

Educators, advocates, and tribal leaders propose plan to transform New Mexico’s education system

ALBUQUERQUE—Over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families, met on Friday to discuss the reforms necessary to provide New Mexican students with the educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive. The coalition agreed upon a comprehensive platform that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, extends the school year, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

“It’s going to take all of us to transform public education in New Mexico,” said Emma Jones, lead organizer at the Learning Alliance. “Parents, students, educators, and community leaders have been working together on solutions to fix our public schools, and we now have a blueprint for real change. This movement will not stop until every student in New Mexico has access to the quality education all our children need and deserve.”

If adopted by the state, the plan would satisfy the requirements of the recent state court ruling on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and families represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

“The ruling has provided an incredible opportunity to transform our public schools for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come,” said Lauren Winkler, attorney at the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. “We look forward to working with the state to bring it into compliance with the court’s order. We all want a better education for our children. We hope that we can come to an agreement soon.”

In June, the First Judicial Court declared that New Mexico’s public education system is not sufficient under the state constitution. The court found New Mexico’s education system particularly failed low-income, students of color, Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. The court ordered the state to make sweeping changes to its schools to provide students with the programs and services they need to be college and career ready.

The comprehensive education plan includes significant increases to per pupil funding and teacher pay, time on task in the classroom, access to early childhood education, and culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum.

“We should be leveraging New Mexico’s tremendous assets and diversity,” said Carmen Lopez, executive director of College Horizons. “Our children have such great potential. It’s time to empower them with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.”

Friday’s meeting was the third and largest meeting held by education experts and community leaders since the court decision to discuss how to transform the state’s public education system. The coalition will continue to work together to push for quality education for all New Mexico’s children.

“Education is the single most important investment we can make in New Mexico’s future, not only for positive educational outcomes but for our economy and quality of life for all New Mexicans,” said Veronica Garcia, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, which is a plaintiff in the Yazzie lawsuit. “We have an opportunity to make the  transformative changes to our education system that we all know will help our children learn and thrive. Now politics as usual must end. There can be no more excuses. We must give all children the education they deserve.”

A copy of the platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/yazzie-proposed-remedy-platform-2018-09-17/

A summary of the court’s opinion can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/graphic-yazzie-martinez-decision/

More information on the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

PED scraps retention rule for five to eight-year-olds

By Marina Candace Butler

We all want our children to be good readers – it’s critical for a successful life. We know that our children are just as capable of learning to read as kids anywhere, but they need the right programs that will actually help them learn.

Center staff attorney, Lauren Winkler discusses PED’s proposed rule and what we really need to improve literacy rates. Click here for video.

What we do know is that flunking kids does not help them learn. In fact, children who are held back don’t do as well in school and have a greater risk of dropping out. New Mexico already has one of the lowest graduation rates rates in the country—25 percent of our students don’t finish school. Despite this, the PED proposed a regulation that would require school districts to retain five to eight-year-olds in kindergarten through third grade if they don’t score at grade level on a single state-determined high stakes test.

Along with New Mexico families and other allies, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty spoke out against the rule, and the department decided to stop its efforts to hold our youngest students back. Now those who know the child best can decide what steps should be taken to increase literacy.

Instead of broadening the ineffective and harmful practice of holding children back in school, we should increase access to the evidenced-based programs that actually help our children learn to read. For example, we know that PreK, K-3 Plus, extended learning time, and professional development closes achievement gaps.

Unfortunately, at least 52,000 New Mexico students do not have access to K-3 Plus. 23,000 don’t have access to full-day New Mexico Pre-K. Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. Instead of adopting these evidence based programs, the PED still intends to continue one-size-fits-all testing that fails our children and schools.

If we want our children and our state to succeed, we need to invest in the future of New Mexico’s children.

Press conference on Monday on Yazzie/Martinez education ruling

District court rules the State of New Mexico violates students’ constitutional rights

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) will hold a press conference and a teleconference press briefing Monday to discuss the ruling in their consolidated lawsuit against the State of New Mexico (Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico). The district court has ruled that the state fails to provide all public school students a sufficient education in violation of the New Mexico Constitution.

PRESS CONFERENCE INFORMATION

WHEN:     
Monday, July 23, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. MT

WHO:      
Center attorneys, MALDEF attorneys, education stakeholders, educators, parents, and students

WHERE:    
Washington Middle School Park
Northwest corner of Park SW and 10th Street SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
See map at: https://goo.gl/maps/yLtVzHEpeJw

Join the press conference on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/nmcenteronlawandpoverty/

TELECONFERENCE INFORMATION

WHEN:      
Monday, July 23, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. MT

WHO:     
Gail Evans, lead counsel, the Center
Preston Sanchez, attorney, the Center
Ernest Herrera, staff attorney, MALDEF
E. Martin Estrada, partner at Munger, Tolles & Olsen LLP and co-counsel to MALDEF
Veronica Garcia, superintendent, Santa Fe Public Schools

DIAL-IN:
877-830-2589 or 785-424-1736
Conference ID: New Mexico

WHY:         
The district court in Santa Fe has ruled that the state is responsible for failing to provide adequate educational opportunities to all public school children. The lawsuit brought by New Mexican families and six school districts asserts that the State of New Mexico’s inadequate funding of public schools and lack of necessary oversight deprives children – particularly low-income, Native American and English language learner students – of the education necessary to be ready for college, career, and civic life.

The ruling can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/order-decison-2018-07-20/

Judge rules New Mexico violates public school students’ constitutional right to sufficient educational opportunities

SANTA FE, NM – July 20, 2018 – A state court ruled today that New Mexico’s education system violates the state constitution because it fails to provide students a sufficient public education.

Families and school districts in the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico sued the state for failing to provide public school students with a sufficient education as mandated by the state’s constitution. The lawsuit challenged the state’s arbitrary and inadequate funding of public schools as well as its failure to provide students with the programs and services needed to be college, career and civic ready. It alleged that the lack of necessary monitoring and oversight deprived students of the resources and services they need to succeed—particularly low-income, students of color, including Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.

The plaintiffs are represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (the Center) and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

“We are extremely gratified that the court has ruled in favor of children and families and recognizes the State’s failure to provide all of New Mexico’s public school students a sufficient education,” said Ernest Herrera, a MALDEF staff attorney. “Now, the State can no longer deny its legal responsibility to all New Mexico’s students.”

In her ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton affirmed the plaintiffs’ claims, stating:

“Therefore, the Defendants will be given until April 15, 2019, to take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career. Reforms to the current system of financing public education and managing schools should address the shortcomings of the current system by ensuring, as a part of that process, that every public school in New Mexico would have the resources necessary for providing the opportunity for a sufficient education for all at-risk students.”

Gail Evans, lead counsel on the case for the Center, shared, “We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of children across New Mexico, in this generation and the next, to ensure the court’s ruling is implemented without delay. Now is the opportunity to transform public schools—the state knows what it needs to make available to our students: a quality education that is culturally and linguistically responsive and the necessary resources to make opportunities possible for all children who need them.”

During the eight-week trial, which began in June 2017, educational experts provided the Court testimony about the needs of New Mexico students and the systemic deficiencies undermining student success. Many school superintendents testified that their districts lack resources, quality programs, and state support, which also includes collaboration between districts and tribal communities.

“I just want my son to be prepared for life, to get a good job, learn strong ethics, and get life skills,” said James Martinez, a plaintiff in the Yazzie case. “My son just tested as gifted, but his school doesn’t have the curriculum or resources to push him to his full potential. The kids who are falling behind have it much worse. All kids should have the same opportunity to learn, progress, and succeed. The only way we can do that is by fixing our public schools and giving all kids a chance.”

Seventy percent of New Mexico students cannot read or write at grade level, 80 percent cannot do math at grade level and graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department. Witnesses also testified that the state fails to address the needs of English-language learners by failing to provide sufficient access to quality bilingual/multicultural education programs.

During the trial, the State’s experts conceded that students at high-poverty schools have less access to effective teachers, yet the State has failed to provide adequate resources to improve teacher training, compensation, recruitment and retention.

The Martinez lawsuit was brought on behalf of parents and public school children from Española, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Zuni, Magdalena, Las Cruces and Gadsden, including students who are English-language learners, Native American, economically disadvantaged or disabled. It was filed in April 2014 by MALDEF following extensive discussions with community groups, local leaders, and parents in New Mexico concerning chronic achievement gaps on standardized tests and other systemic failures. The state sought to dismiss the case but the court in Martinez denied the request, and ruled for the first time in New Mexico’s history that education is a fundamental right under the state constitution.

The Center’s Yazzie lawsuit was filed in March 2014 on behalf of a group of families and school districts including Gallup-McKinley, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Cuba, Moriarty/Edgewood, and Lake Arthur. The families represented have children who are English-language learners, Native American, Hispanic, low-income and have been negatively impacted by the lack of resources provided to New Mexico public schools.

A copy of the decision can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/order-decison-2018-07-20/