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NEW MEXICO COURT ORDERS IMMEDIATE REMOTE LEARNING RELIEF

NEW MEXICO COURT ORDERS IMMEDIATE REMOTE LEARNING RELIEF

Responding to the students’ remote learning needs during the Covid crisis, New Mexico District Court Judge Matthew Wilson last month ordered the state to provide computers and high-speed internet access to the thousands of “at-risk” students who lack these necessary tools to access remote learning now and post pandemic.

At the hearing, the court ruled that “defendants must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitution.”

Judge Wilson added, “Children who are lacking access to internet and technology for remote learning are not getting much of an education, if at all, let alone one that is sufficient to make them college and career ready.”

The order was issued in response to a motion filed by plaintiffs in Yazzie v. New Mexico. In 2018, the Court had ruled that the state’s education finance system violated the Education Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the state constitution. The Court issued a declaratory judgment that required the state to take “immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career.”

Responding to the court order, in April 2019, New Mexico’s governor and legislature agreed on a package of reforms that will increase teacher salaries, extend instructional time at public schools and boost spending on low-income students. Plaintiffs told the Court, however, that these measures are insufficient to remedy the problems outlined in the court decision, and filed further compliance motions, in addition to the current technology motion,  that are currently being considered by the Court.

In its recent order, the Court held that the state must immediately:

  • Determine which at-risk students and their teachers do not have a dedicated digital device and immediately provide one or ensure that one is provided to each of these students and their teachers.
  • Determine which at-risk students do not have access to high-speed internet that will allow them to work from home and immediately provide them with access to a high-speed service and when necessary, transportation to access it.
  • Provide school districts with funding for sufficient qualified IT staff to support and maintain digital devices, cellular hotspots, and community Wi-Fi locations, and other remote learning needs.

According to the Yazzie plaintiffs, an estimated 23% of the New Mexico population lacks broadband internet service and an estimated 80% of Native Americans living on tribal lands in the state do not have internet services.

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