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Major Education Lawsuit Heads To Trial

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Edward Tabet-Cubero, Executive Director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, speaks at a press conference Monday

Two civil rights groups are taking New Mexico’s public education system to court. They say the state doesn’t fund education well enough, doesn’t provide the right programming and is violating some students’ rights.

The trial started Monday in Santa Fe. 

The New Mexico constitution guarantees “uniform” and “sufficient” education for all students.

But the lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty claims that’s not happening. It says the state has failed to adequately fund schools, and hasn’t prevented budget problems from impacting students’ education.

"The [recent budget] cuts have been devastating to our community," said Moriarty-Edgewood School District superintendent Tom Sullivan during a press conference. Sullivan is one of six superintendents who are plaintiffs in the case against the state.

"We’ve closed two community elementary schools. We consistently run larger than desirable class sizes. We can’t afford summer school. And I could go on and on." 

The lawsuit says these shortfalls have hit students with disabilities, lower-income and Native American students, and English Language Learners especially hard.

Attorneys for the state dispute the claims, and say graduation rates and test scores have been improving.

The trial is expected to last nine weeks.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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