The state says it spent nearly $6 million on a five-year lawsuit over education spending. Now, some lawmakers are saying it was a huge waste of time and taxpayer money.
The governor’s office says the state spent $5.9 million on the Yazzie Martinez lawsuit, which they lost. Sen. Mimi Stewart (D) says that money could’ve been put to better use. “It’s a lot of money to spend that most of us in the business knew the state was going to lose,” said Sen. Mimi Stewart.
That lawsuit, Yazzie Vs. Martinez accused the state of not providing the right resources and funding for public education, especially at-risk students and poorer communities. Sen. Mimi Stewart says the plaintiffs were right. “Students were just not performing the way they could have if we had been spending money on programs,” said Stewart.
Last year, Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state had to establish a funding system that would meet the Public Education Department’s constitutional duty to offer equal education to all students. “We need our educators to be trained in a manner that they can deliver educational programs to students that are in need,” said Rep. Thomas Salazar, (D) Las Vegas.
Sen. Stewart, who testified on behalf of the plaintiff, says the judge’s decision was not surprising and the money should’ve been used for education to begin with. “Instead they should’ve put the $6 million towards doing what they were supposed to do,” said Sen. Stewart.
Education funding was a top priority at this year’s legislative session as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with lawmakers, attempted to meet Judge Singleton’s standards. “We have a very clear lawsuit that says we are not meeting the educational needs of our students,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The plaintiffs are now asking the judge to order the state to reimburse them for their legal fees. The legislature approved nearly $500 million for education during the last legislative session.