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Judge: New Mexico Provides Inadequate Education To At-Risk Students

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Rayos Burciago, a Santa Fe mother and plaintiff in the Yazzie-Martinez case, speaks at a press conference in Albuquerque Monday.

The state of New Mexico has violated students’ constitutional rights by failing to provide an adequate public education, according to a landmark decision handed down late Friday by a New Mexico District Court judge.

Plaintiffs, advocates, and attorneys from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF gathered Monday morning in Albuquerque to celebrate.

In her ruling, Judge Sarah Singleton found the state has not done enough to serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds: low-income students, Native American students, English Language Learners and those with disabilities.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia says the plaintiffs weren’t looking for anything extra.

"It’s just basic education, folks," she said. "It’s about improving teacher pay so we can have teachers in our classrooms, how basic is that? It's about access to technology, counselors, and proven programs that mitigate the impacts of poverty, like Pre-K and K3-Plus."

Among other things, the ruling takes issue with the state’s teacher evaluation system, noting it doesn’t measure how well a teacher serves English Language Learners or whether they provide culturally relevant material to Native American students – both of which are required by state law.

The judge didn’t specify what steps the state needs to take in changing its education system; it has until April 2019 to come up with a plan. It’s unclear whether the state will appeal the ruling.


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Con Alma Health Foundation, and from KUNM listeners.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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