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)

City of Las Cruces advocates for ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

City Council moved by local support and statewide momentum

LAS CRUCES–The City Council of Las Cruces, after hearing testimony from NM Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Doña Ana County, unanimously passed a resolution today in favor of continuing the state’s efforts in pursuing a Medicaid Buy-in plan–an innovative policy that would give New Mexicans the option to buy into Medicaid even if they are not currently eligible.

“I have been a promotora, a community health worker, for 15 years in Doña Ana County and have seen the great impact that lack of medical coverage has on New Mexico’s families,” said Maxi Urrutia, a Doña Ana County resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate.

“Over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents currently don’t have health insurance, and my parents were a part of this group. They had to choose between paying for life-saving medical treatment and rent. No one should have to make that choice. We need to provide everyone with healthcare coverage they can afford.”

Urrutia is part of NM Together for Healthcare, a family-driven campaign of community members and organizations striving to ensure that every New Mexican has access to quality, affordable healthcare.

NM Together for Healthcare’s families have been blazing a trail in healthcare reform in New Mexico by building support with decision makers statewide. Since July, local governments and tribal councils have unanimously passed six resolutions in support of exploring a Medicaid buy-in plan.

Allowing Las Cruces residents to buy into Medicaid would provide families whose employers do not offer healthcare insurance with affordable healthcare coverage. Families without health insurance do not get the medical care they need and often forego necessary medical treatment because it is too expensive.

“My father was a custodian in the public schools for over 20 years and had no medical coverage when he retired,” said Urrutia. “Both he and mother were diagnosed with serious medical conditions and weren’t able to get the treatment they needed because they didn’t have enough money. They both died from lack of medical attention.”

During the 2018 legislative session, memorials passed with bipartisan support in the New Mexico House and Senate in 2018, authorizing a study of the Medicaid Buy-in plan.

“My parents deserved a better way of living. They would still be here if they had access to medical coverage. That is why I am advocating healthcare for every New Mexican and support the Medicaid Buy-in,” said Urrutia.

The Las Cruces City Council will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Taps Takeover to Benefit New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Please join us on Saturday, December 1 from 2-10pm at Fire & Hops Gastropub in Santa Fe for their Taps Takeover event. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. As Albuquerque’s Bosque Brewing takes over the taps and Fire & Hops serves up delicious food specials, the Center will be discussing our advocacy. We will also be giving away two day passes to Meow Wolf to a lucky attendee! We hope to see you there!

‘Tis the season for chartiable giving!

Tuesday, November 27 is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving when we celebrate the power of community philanthropy. Backed by the strength and support of our communities, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty has made remarkable progress this year. Consider giving a contribution on November 27 to honor and continue our work!

DOUBLE YOUR DONATION ON NOVEMBER 27! By making a gift to the Center on #GivingTuesdayNM, your donation will be matched up to $1,700 by gifts from our generous sponsors:
State Employees Credit Union
Print Express
Document Technologies
and an anonymous individual donor.
A huge THANK YOU to our #GivingTuesday sponsors for their support!

Follow our #GivingTuesday progress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

City of Albuquerque supports ‘Medicaid Buy-in’  

City Council moved by local and statewide support for innovative solution 

ALBUQUERQUE—The Albuquerque City Council, after hearing from NM Together for Healthcare leaders from Albuquerque, passed a resolution today that supports the state’s commitment to exploring a proposal that would allow anyone to buy into a low-cost healthcare plan through Medicaid—including the uninsured who don’t qualify for Medicaid now.

“I support the Medicaid Buy-in because we all have the right to good health, and access to low-cost options will help many people,” said Evelyn Ramos, a Partnership for Community Action healthcare advocate and Albuquerque resident. “Since I am uninsured, I know how difficult it is to find healthcare coverage. When I do find services, I am given appointments months away.
I have daughters who get sick often, so it has helped my family to have them covered by Medicaid. But not everyone is eligible for Medicaid. We should open it up for everyone to access good healthcare.”

The Medicaid Buy-in plan has been gaining support around the state with
the unanimous passage of similar resolutions by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and local governments, including the city of Sunland Park, the city of Anthony, Bernalillo County, and McKinley County. Medicaid Buy-in memorials passed with bipartisan support in the New Mexico House and Senate during the 2018 legislative session.

Medicaid is already a trusted, popular model that covers over 830,000
New Mexicans, including over 225,000 Bernalillo County residents. The plan would open up Medicaid for all New Mexican’s to buy into, providing low-cost coverage for the over 48,000 uninsured Bernalillo county residents. It would also provide affordable health insurance to individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid due to income or immigration status.

The plan could also help the economy by ensuring families have coverage to receive needed medical care before health conditions worsen, resulting in medical debt for families and uncompensated care costs for hospitals and providers.

“Without Medicaid, it would be extremely difficult for us to afford medical services for my daughters. We would probably go to the doctor in an emergency or when an illness has worsened,” said Ramos. “But undocumented people do not have access to Medicaid. It is important for us to find what we have in common—we all need good health.”

The Albuquerque City Council will share the resolution with state legislators and include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

City of Albuquerque to consider supporting innovative ‘Medicaid buy-in’ option today

ALBUQUERQUE—Albuquerque healthcare leaders in the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign will present a resolution to the Albuquerque City Council today that supports the state’s exploration of an innovative plan that would allow New Mexicans to buy-in to the proven, trusted Medicaid healthcare system. The city council is expected to pass the resolution at its 5 p.m. meeting this evening.

The buy-in plan would allow New Mexicans to buy into the Medicaid program for healthcare coverage—even if they are not currently eligible for Medicaid— providing a more affordable, high-quality healthcare coverage option.

With more than 48,000 people in Bernalillo County currently without health insurance, a Medicaid buy-in plan would make quality healthcare coverage more accessible for many local residents. Albuquerqueans have reached out to the city councilors and urged them to support the resolution.

WHAT:  
The Albuquerque City Council will vote on an important resolution supporting the state’s work to explore a Medicaid Buy-in plan.

WHEN:   
5 p.m., Monday, October 1, 2018

WHERE:     
Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center, One Civic Plaza, Albuquerque, NM 87102

WHO: 
Albuquerque City Council
New Mexico Together for Healthcare leaders

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to hear about ‘Medicaid Buy-in’ study

LAS CRUCES—On Friday, September 28, New Mexico’s Legislative Health and Human Services Committee will hear updates from the research group Manatt on the study exploring a Medicaid buy-in plan for New Mexico. During the 2018 Legislative Session, Medicaid Buy-in memorials (House Memorial 9 and Senate Memorial 3) passed with bipartisan support in favor of studying the fiscal considerations and design of such a plan for New Mexico.

Resolutions supporting the study of a Medicaid buy-in plan have passed with unanimous support in cities and counties across the state.

A Medicaid buy-in plan would allow New Mexicans who are not otherwise eligible for the program to use their own dollars to buy into a quality, affordable coverage option built out of the trusted, popular model of Medicaid. Manatt will be presenting preliminary design options for the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to consider as the study progresses.

WHAT:     
Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to hear updates on Medicaid Buy-in study from Manatt Health

WHEN:     
Friday, September 28, 2018, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Public comment to follow

WHERE:   
NM State University’s Fulton Athletic Center, 1815 Wells Street, Las Cruces, NM 88003

WHO:  
Legislative Health and Human Services Committee
NM Together for Healthcare leaders
Manatt Health

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

City of Anthony stands behind ‘Medicaid Buy-in’ 

Board of Trustees moved by local support and statewide momentum 

ANTHONY– The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees, after hearing testimony from NM Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Anthony, passed a resolution on Monday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into — regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“All New Mexican families should have health insurance that allows them economic security and good health,” said Vanessa Urbina, Anthony resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “Unfortunately, many New Mexican families, including over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents, do not have health insurance. Medicaid has worked for my family and many others. We should build on Medicaid by opening it up for everyone.”

Medicaid is a trusted program that provides quality, affordable healthcare to over 100,000 people in Doña Ana County. A well-designed Medicaid Buy-in plan would allow Anthony residents — like those that don’t qualify for Medicaid because of income or citizenship status—to buy into healthcare coverage offered through Medicaid.

Having more New Mexicans covered would reduce uncompensated care costs that are shifted to doctors and hospitals and reduce medical debt among families trying to build financial security.

“For some years, my husband and I could not walk without pain in our hips and waist, but thanks to Medicaid, we received the treatment we needed,” said Ramona Urbina, another a long-time Anthony resident and Strong Families healthcare leader. “Today my husband can work and so can I. We can still pay our bills. Everyone should have the right of good healthcare that they can afford.”

New Mexican leaders like the Urbina family are part of the NM Together for Healthcare campaign, a movement of diverse families and organizations from across the state working to build support for a Medicaid Buy-in plan.

The campaign has been successful in building support among policy makers across the state, and similar resolutions have passed with unanimous support in the City of Sunland Park and Bernalillo and McKinley Counties. The New Mexico House and Senate also passed a Medicaid Buy-in memorial to study a buy-in option with bipartisan support during the 2018 legislative session.

“Medicaid has helped my family improve their quality of life. My father had been running his own business for 20 plus years, and I was able to finish my University Bachelor degree in Public Health because we’ve been able to manage our health, focus on our goals, and go to the hospital without going into debt,” said Vanessa Urbina. “But many families are not eligible for Medicaid due to immigration status, or they just don’t know they are eligible. We are fighting to make sure that every New Mexican family has the chance to be healthy and create opportunities for themselves.”

The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

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/