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STATE MOVES TO DISMISS HISTORIC NEW MEXICO LAWSUIT

Claiming that the public education system in New Mexico is now substantially different than the one in place just a few school years ago, attorneys for the State of New Mexico earlier this month filed a motion to dismiss the Yazzie/Martinez v. New Mexico case in the state’s First Judicial District Court.

In July 2018, the late Judge Sarah Singleton had ruled that New Mexico was denying English-language learners, special-education students, Native Americans, and low-income students their constitutional right to a sufficient education. She ordered the state to ensure that “as soon as practicable every public school in New Mexico would have the resources, including instructional materials, properly trained staff, and curricular offerings, necessary for providing the opportunity for a sufficient education for all at-risk students.”

The state’s current motion claims that the state has increased appropriations for K-12 schools for the current year by $448 million (a 16% increase). The defendants also allege that there has been an increase of $135 million in annual funding for at-risk students, a drop from 740 full-time teacher vacancies to 644 and a host of new accountability measures.

The plaintiffs vigorously deny that there has been adequate compliance, and have pending their own motions asking the Court to order the state to take further compliance action.  The Yazzie plaintiffs argue in their reply brief that the actual increases have been less than claimed since some of the added funding was contingent on districts signing up for longer school years, but the actual sign-up rates by the districts were low because of unreasonably strict program requirements and insufficient lead time for district implementation, leaving at least $111 million unclaimed.

They also allege that there has been no increase in special education funding and inadequate resources for bilingual programs and for Native American students. Plaintiffs further state that per student expenditures for the 2019/2020 school year are less than per student expenditures in 2007/2008, when adjusted for inflation, and that, therefore, defendants are far from complying with the demanding standards set forth in the court’s judgment.

Judge Mathew Wilson, to whom the case has now been assigned, has scheduled a hearing on the motion for March 27, 2020.

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