After a lengthy court battle, a judge ruled the state is violating New Mexico kids’ rights to a good education, especially for at-risk and minority students. This ruling could cost the state a lot of money.
“This is historic, this is monumental,” said Co-Director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, Regis Pecos.
Plaintiffs for a lawsuit demanding the state live up to its promise are celebrating a major win.
“This ruling really will touch every single public school district, every school and every student,” said New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty attorney Lauren Winkler.
The lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and families says the state hasn’t provided a proper education mandated by the New Mexico Constitution, especially for minority and low-income students.
“In the ruling, the judge said the programs and services are not sufficient in the number of students who need them,” said Winkler.
The court ruled that “Contrary to Defendants’ argument, current funding through the at-risk formula and the Title 1 does not provide the money needed to educate at-risk students and to offer these programs.”
The court also questioned the quality of teaching provided and went on to say there is “no doubt many teachers in New Mexico make ‘commendable, even heroic efforts,’ to educate kids” and questioned if there needs to be a more accurate way to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness.
“This is also a further mandate to get a good evaluation system that gives us feedback, helps us be better teachers and doesn’t blame us and attach test scores when they aren’t real,” said Albuquerque Teacher’s Federation President, Ellen Bernstein.
Attorneys say the next step is to wait and see if there will be any appeal filed against the ruling, and if not, the court will tell the state what it has to do to meet what the ruling says.
Educators KRQE News 13 spoke with say the court’s ruling has given them hope.
“Now is the time for them to organize and to work towards taking action to ensure that the recommendations that will move forward will represent their best interests,” said Learning Alliance of New Mexico organizer Emma Jones.
“This is a ruling that could set the foundation for sufficient funding for New Mexico and not just for the kids today but for the kids tomorrow,” said Bernstein.
State lawmakers say the next step is to get back into session to discuss which funds will go towards public education, and another big factor is who will fill the Governor’s seat in the upcoming election.
The court says the state has until April 2019 to take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the necessary resources to better prepare the kids for their future. KRQE News 13 reached out to the New Mexico Public Education Department, but have not heard back.