KUNM

Lawmakers Eye Educational Equity As Budget Debate Begins

Jan 14, 2019

Public education is the top issue as state lawmakers begin their 60-day session on Tuesday, and there’s oil and gas money to spend.

Every school district in the state stands to benefit. Teachers and other school staff will likely see raises and pre-kindergarten and K-3 Plus programs will likely expand. But a landmark court ruling on education that came down last year identifies certain students who’ve long been underserved by the state’s public schools.

In a Legislative Education Study Committee meeting Monday morning, Rep. Patricia Roybal-Caballero urged her colleagues to keep the needs of English language learners, Native Americans and other at-risk students at the forefront throughout the budgeting process.

"We've come to a point where we cannot treat the findings in Yazzie and Martinez, and even 'at-risk', as being separate and perhaps still equal," said Roybal-Caballero. "What we need to do is be sensitive to the fact that we’re now taking a multi-cultural, multi-lingual framework and approach, and trying to change the history and the way in which we’ve been delivering education in this state."

The judge in the Yazzie-Martinez case identified many areas ripe for reform. Among them: how to make sure teachers use culturally responsive practices, and how much the state should tweak its school funding formula to better provide for at-risk students.

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