Governor signs bill to help rural school districts improve bilingual, multicultural education

HB 111 will support teachers with training to better serve culturally and linguistically diverse students, particularly in rural New Mexico

SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Representative Salazar’s HB 111, Cultural and Linguistic Education Support, funding Regional Education Cooperatives (RECs) to provide professional development to staff and teachers for culturally and linguistically responsive instruction.

“New Mexico is not like other states. Our diversity is our strength and it presents unique opportunities for how we leverage our multicultural and multilingual heritage to improve learning outcomes for students, regardless of their zip code,” said Rebecca Blum Martinez, professor and bilingual/ESL director, Department of Language, Literacy, & Sociocultural Studies, University of New Mexico’s College of Education. “Our education system has long been inequitable and unresponsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of our students, which research shows is critical to enabling students to learn and do well in school.”

HB 111 builds the capacity for Regional Education Cooperatives (RECs) to provide professional development for educators on culturally and linguistically responsive instruction. The bill provides funding for RECs to contract with local experts to offer strategies and techniques to most effectively teach culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

“Diverse students and their teachers across rural New Mexico face distinct challenges, only further compounded by the lack of training opportunities in multilingual and multicultural education,” said Edward Tabet-Cubero with Transform Education NM. “HB 111 creates a pathway for RECs to better serve students and improve outcomes.”

HB 111 is one key component of the Transform Education NM coalition platform to improve education outcomes for all New Mexico students. The platform is grounded in a multicultural, multilingual framework to reverse years of inadequate state investment in public education and close achievement gaps for New Mexico’s students, especially low-income, Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. 

The bill’s primary sponsor was Representative Tomas Salazar and co-sponsors were Representative Linda Trujillo and Representative Derrick Lente.

Information on the Transform Education NM platform can be found here: https://transformeducationnm.org/our-platform/.  

###

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. To learn more, visit www.transformeducationnm.org.

Governor signs bill closing loopholes in small loans law

SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill today cleaning up state law that regulates storefront lenders. House Bill 150, Installment & Small Loan Changes, sponsored by Representative Georgene Louis, protects New Mexico borrowers by ensuring accountability and transparency in the storefront lending industry.

“Today we’ve made great progress toward fairness and transparency for New Mexican borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “HB 150 cleans up loopholes in state law by requiring lenders to report relevant data to the state and aligns our small loan laws so all New Mexico families can receive fairer loans.”

New Mexico’s first across-the-board interest rate cap went into effect in January 2018, capping interest rates on storefront loans at 175 percent APR. However, high fees and loan rollovers continue to drain income from New Mexico borrowers. The two laws that regulate storefront lenders, the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts, still contain inconsistent fee and disclosure provisions, do not require sufficient reporting to the state’s Financial Institutions Division to enforce consumer protections, and do not make clear borrowers’ rights on loan renewals.

Starting January 1, 2020, HB 150 will:

  • Require lenders to provide relevant data on small loans, enabling the FID to verify storefront lenders are adhering to small loans law and for the state to evaluate how the law is impacting New Mexicans;
  • Allow borrowers 24 hours to rescind a high-interest loan;
  • Align fee provisions and disclosure requirements in the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts so consumer protections are consistent for all borrowers;
  • Protect New Mexican borrowers from potential loopholes when they renew or rollover loans by clarifying the definition of new loans; and
  • Align the penalties for violating the small loan laws and the language around the Unfair Practices Act to ensure that companies are held accountable for unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices.

“The small loan industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking New Mexico families,” said Cutler. “HB 150 goes a long way to make sure our small loan law is clear of ambiguities and provides meaningful consumer protections that hold small loan companies accountable. Small loan reform is absolutely necessary if we hope to stop predatory lending practices.”

Senate passes bill guaranteeing basic wage protections for domestic workers

SANTA FE— Today, the New Mexico Senate passed SB 85, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, which would ensure home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.

Historically, domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections and have little recourse when not paid. SB 85, Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, removes exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

“Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage for their work,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SB 85 would eliminate archaic and discriminatory treatment in New Mexico’s labor protections so people who work hard in other people’s homes and as caregivers are treated fairly and can seek recourse when they are not.”

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections.

“Domestic workers deserve the same protections as other workers” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Cleaning houses and taking care of people demands dedication, time, and experience. It’s time we changed how we value this work and the people who perform it.”

Federal law has since eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers, but without state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes are not protected and may be subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations. If domestic workers were covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, the N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions would investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

The bill will now be assigned to a committee in the House of Representatives for consideration.

Court issues final ruling in landmark education lawsuit

Legislature’s proposed funding will not meet court’s mandate for transformation of education system

ALBUQUERQUE—Late Thursday, First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton issued a final ruling in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico. The court found that the state has violated students’ constitutional rights to a sufficient education and ordered the state to provide educational programs, services, and funding to schools to prepare students so they are college and career ready.

The current proposed funding for education under discussion in the New Mexico Legislature will not suffice to meet the court’s mandate.

Current New Mexico Legislature education funding proposals are asking for an increase of $400 to $500 million—which amounts to a 15-18 percent increase in public school funding. Evidence at trial showed that public schools are receiving less funding now than in 2008, when adjusting for inflation. That data has since been updated to show that an increase of $409 million would only return New Mexico to 2008 education funding levels. In 2008, New Mexico was ranked at the bottom in the country in reading and math proficiency and was clearly not in compliance with New Mexico’s constitutional requirement. Reverting funding back to 2008 resources levels does not meet the court’s mandates to sufficiently fund programs and services for our children

“New Mexico’s students are legally entitled to the educational opportunities they need to succeed. This final judgement is yet another clear statement from the court that the state has a legal mandate to take immediate action to ensure that our students are getting the quality of education that they are constitutionally entitled to,” said Gail Evans, lead attorney for Yazzie plaintiffs in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit. “To comply with the constitution, we must have a transformation of our educational system—nothing less is going to cut it. The system has failed our students for decades and that must stop now.”

The court made clear that students’ constitutional rights to a sufficient education cannot be violated so that the state can save funds. The court’s final judgement states, “The defendants must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitutional resources.”

The legislature’s current budget under consideration does not fully implement a multicultural and bilingual curriculum, does not adequately increase teacher pay and professional development to recruit and retain teachers, and does not ensure children have access to instructional materials, technology and transportation, and other basic services that are critical for educational success.

“Families and school districts have been struggling to work with the resources that they have,” said Tom Sullivan, former superintendent of Moriarty-Edgewood School District, which is a plaintiff in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. “Most states’ education budgets have recovered from and surpassed pre-recession amounts, but in New Mexico, the current budget proposal is barely returning to 2008 levels when education was already underfunded.”

“We have an incredible opportunity to do the right thing for our students, our future,” said Mike Grossman, superintendent of Lake Arthur Municipal Schools, one of the smallest districts in New Mexico and a Yazzie plaintiff. “Governor Lujan-Grisham and new Public Education Department have expressed a strong commitment to our students and to public education. It is critical that they now step in and drive the major educational reforms and the big investments it will take to fix our schools.”

The court’s final judgement and order can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/D-101-CV-2014-00793-Final-Judgment-and-Order-NCJ-1.pdf

Governor reverses Medicaid cuts in Centennial Care 2.0 waiver

Advocacy efforts conclude in a victory for families


SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reversed serious cuts to New Mexico’s Medicaid program yesterday following two years of advocacy efforts by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, community organizations, and healthcare providers. Under the Susana Martinez administration, New Mexico’s Human Services Department had proposed major cuts to healthcare services as part of the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver, many of which were approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in December 2018.  

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty led the efforts to fight the cuts that would have implemented premiums for some Medicaid patients, cut retroactive coverage, and instituted mandatory co-pays.

“We owe a huge thanks to Governor Lujan Grisham for reversing these harmful measures and to the advocates and families who fought tirelessly over the last two years for the health and wellbeing of all New Mexicans,” said Abuko D. Estrada, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Piece by piece, we’ve successfully fought the cuts in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver that would have led to thousands of families losing healthcare coverage and shifted an unfair burden of costs to healthcare providers and the healthcare system.”  

The governor’s rejection of the waiver is the latest in a series of positive actions the new administration has taken to improve the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans. Since taking office, Lujan-Grisham has set forth plans to reach uninsured New Mexicans who are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled and help them apply. The governor has also been publicly supportive of bills, currently working their way through the legislature, that would open up a Medicaid Buy-in option for New Mexicans who do not otherwise have access to affordable healthcare coverage.

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

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.

###

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.

Proposed Medicaid cuts would force New Mexicans to go without healthcare

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico’s Human Services Department proposed cuts to Medicaid would hurt families and violate federal law, said the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in comments submitted yesterday on the department’s Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal.

“Everyone needs access to healthcare coverage,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “But HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid would force many New Mexican families to go into debt or simply drop coverage. That’s bad news for all of us. We know that when people go without healthcare, it’s much harder for them to maintain their financial stability, be productive in the workforce, or continue their education.”

HSD’s proposal imposes new patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. Research has shown that these fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. For many low-income families, the proposed increase to $10 a month is prohibitive and would force them to choose between healthcare and other necessities like food, housing, and transportation.

Hospital bills are especially devastating for families on limited income, often ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000. Yet, HSD’s proposed cuts would also phase-out retroactive coverage, which pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and force healthcare providers to shoulder increased uncompensated care costs.

New Mexicans have voiced overwhelming opposition to HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. Throughout the entire Centennial Care 2.0 waiver application process, patients, providers, stakeholders, researchers, advocates and community members were nearly unanimously opposed to these changes.

HSD’s proposed Medicaid cuts also violate federal law. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can only approve waivers of federal Medicaid requirements that are listed under Section 1115 of the Medicaid Act. Provisions that govern cost-sharing, such as premiums, and retroactive coverage are outside of Section 1115, meaning CMS lacks legal authority to waive such requirements. CMS has not yet approved the regulatory changes proposed in HSD’s new regulations.

The Center’s comments can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NMCLP-Comment-on-HSDs-Medicaid-Cuts2018-10-25.pdf

 

###

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

 

Proposed Public Charge rule would increase hunger and poverty in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico organizations are fighting the Trump administration’s reckless new attack on our families: a greatly expanded “Public Charge” rule that essentially turns the U.S. immigration system into a pay-to-play game that unfairly favors the wealthy. If the proposed rule were to go into effect, it would allow the government to deny green cards and visa renewals to lawfully present immigrants who participate in programs that help with basic needs like medical care, food, and housing.

In New Mexico, immigrants make up a large part of our communities. Nearly one in 10 New Mexicans is an immigrant, and one in nine have immigrant parents. New Mexico stands to lose as many as 2,700 jobs and nearly $400 million in economic activity because eligible New Mexicans will forego federal benefits that flow directly into our local economy.

“Trump Charge is yet one more example of this administration’s agenda to target and persecute our communities,” said Fabiola Bawden, community organizer from El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “We are proud of the economic, cultural, and social contributions that immigrant communities make in New Mexico and across the nation. We are ONE New Mexico and must continue to resist Trump’s attempts to push our families into further poverty, strip away legal protections that keep our families together, and rob us of the opportunity to fully integrate into the civic and economic life of the state and country we call home.”

Trump’s new rule dramatically expands the list of programs that jeopardize immigration status to include nearly all available basic need programs like Medicaid, housing assistance, and SNAP food assistance. Currently, the Public Charge rule only considers receipt of cash benefits and institutional care as a reason to deny lawfully present immigrants visa renewals or to deny their application for legal residency.

“No one should ever have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their family together,” said Sovereign Hager, legal director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “At least 77,000 U.S. children in New Mexico live with at least one immigrant parent and are in a family that receives basic assistance. Kids who get assistance with basic needs are healthier, do better in school, and earn more in the future. If this rule goes into effect, we will all face the consequences for generations to come.”

The rule is in a public comment period until December 10, 2018. The Department of Homeland Security must consider all comments before it publishes a final rule in order for there to be a change to immigration law or policy.

“The Trump administration continues to target immigrant communities,” said Eduardo García of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. “This is an effort to create confusion and fear among immigrants and discourage immigration and the use of benefits for immigrant families who qualify. We encourage all New Mexicans to submit comments against the proposed rule and stand up against this drastic change in policy.”

The new rule will not be retroactive, so the current use of food and medical benefits do not fall under the proposed rule. The groups recommend that people concerned about their immigration status continue participating in benefits programs and speak to an immigration attorney. If the rule is approved, it will not go into effect immediately after it is published. Families will have time to make decisions about benefits then.

“Through our daily work, we witness the devastating impact that poverty and the associated toxic stress have on individuals’ and families’ psychological and emotional well-being. The Trump administration is attacking a significant portion of the hardworking families in our communities,” said William Wagner, PhD, LCSW, Director of Centro Savila. “We cannot sit by while the Trump administration increases hunger, poverty, and sickness in our nation while handing out deep tax cuts to the rich. This endangers our families, communities, our state, and our country.”

“Thousands of New Mexico children – most of whom are U.S. citizens – will likely lose access to services because their parents will terminate their health insurance, food assistance, and more as a result of these proposed changes to the public charge definition,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a child advocacy organization. “It’s unconscionable that the Trump administration would take actions that will harm children across the nation.”

###

Centro Savila improves the mental health of our community by ensuring access to linguistically and culturally relevant, quality mental health and prevention services, education and healthcare professional development.

EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos is a grassroots, immigrants’ rights and workers’ justice organization based in Central New Mexico that works with Latino immigrant communities and allies to defend, strengthen, and advance the rights of Albuquerque’s communities.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

New Mexico Immigration Law Center advances justice and equity by empowering low-income immigrant communities through collaborative legal services, advocacy, and education.

New Mexico Voices for Children champions  public policies that improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities in the areas of health, education, and economics through credible research and effective advocacy.

HSD to Hold Hearing on Medicaid Cuts Wednesday

SANTA FE—New Mexico’s Human Services Department will hold a hearing on the serious cuts the Medicaid program faces in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal on Wednesday, October 24 in Santa Fe.

The waiver proposal imposes new excessive patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. These fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. The proposal would also phase out retroactive coverage, which is a protection that pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and leave healthcare providers with additional uncompensated care costs.

WHAT:
HSD Hearing on the Centennial Care 2.0 Waiver Proposal

WHEN:
9:00 a.m -12:00 p.m., October 24, 2018

WHERE:     
Rio Grande Conference Room, Toney Anaya Building, 2550 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

WHO:
William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and other groups against the waiver
HSD staff
Public Comment