New Mexico advocates overhaul plan targeting education deficits | New Mexico News

By CEDAR ATTANASIO, Associated Press / Reporting for America

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico’s governor has outlined a long-awaited plan that would set academic proficiency goals as the state struggles to resolve a lawsuit filed by frustrated parents who won a decision to justice claiming that the state was not providing an education for the vast majority of its students.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposal released earlier this month seeks to satisfy this 2018 court ruling and ongoing litigation to ensure adequate resources to equip students as they pursue careers or college education. .

New Mexico is one of a long list of states where parents have turned to the legal system to address frustrations with the state’s budget process and the quality of classroom education.

The public and advocacy groups have until June 17 to comment. The plan is expected to prompt immediate reforms by the state’s Department of Public Education, as well as budget discussions and priorities in the Legislative Assembly next year. However, critics say it lacks specifics, including detailed funding plans and timelines.

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Education advocates and Native American tribal leaders presented their own plan in 2019. Called the “Tribal Remedy Framework,” it cites sections of the lawsuit, makes specific recommendations, and suggests a specific amount of funding to implement them. .

“While I am hopeful and happy (the Department of Public Education) has released its report and is beginning to move forward on its response, I am still puzzled as to why they have not yet publicly adopted the Tribal Remedy Framework,” Rep. Derrick said. Slow, by Sandia Pueblo. He called the proposed draft “we know what’s best for Indigenous children,” and compared it to the collaborative plan submitted by tribes and advocates.

Education advocates expected the governor’s proposal to be shared in December, before the January legislative session, but that did not happen and the state budget was passed in February.

The governor’s plan could also be used to determine whether a state court continues to oversee spending and initiatives to improve public education.

The court found that the state’s investments in education, as well as students’ academic performance, proved that “the vast majority of at-risk children in New Mexico finish each school year without basic literacy and in mathematics necessary to pursue post-secondary education or a career.”

For the groups targeted by the lawsuit, which make up about 70% of children in the state, proficiency in reading and math at many levels was significantly worse than that of other students, with about 4% to 15% being proficient, a found the court.

Lujan Grisham’s draft plan would set academic performance targets that include a 50% increase in test scores over 2019 figures for children covered by the lawsuit – including Native Americans, English learners and college students disabled. But the Education Department admits it cannot currently measure the increases.

The administration has changed proficiency tests twice since the court’s 2018 ruling, limiting the state’s ability to argue in court that improvements have taken place.

The state also failed to comprehensively test students for two consecutive years during the pandemic. It is deploying a new battery of tests this year.

“When the New Mexico assessment data is finalized and compiled later this summer, the (Department of Public Education) will reset this baseline and the goals set out in the draft action plan will be attached to these data,” said Department of Public Education spokeswoman Carolyn Graham. statement. “It is also important to note that the draft plan is, indeed, a draft, and we expect to receive valuable feedback.”

The draft plan does not offer any funding suggestions. It highlights recent increases in education spending approved by the Governor, including recent large increases in teacher salaries and overall increases in education funding. Education now accounts for about 45% of the overall $8.5 billion budget. Unlike most other states, New Mexico funds schools through the state budget rather than relying on property tax revenues.

The administration is also touting adjustments to support specific groups named in the lawsuit, including an overhaul of social studies standards that expands the focus on Native American history and identity. These changes have been welcomed by education advocates, even those who continue to mount the lawsuit.

Representatives of the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit welcome the draft plan and the opportunity to respond to it. But they are not satisfied with the level of detail provided by the State.

“It’s clear that the critical pieces we’ve been asking for statewide are still missing: concrete goals, action steps, estimated funding levels, timelines, responsible parties, and needs. into esteemed staff,” Melissa Candelaria, director of education in New Mexico. Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement. “Community input is essential but would be much more constructive on a fully fleshed out level.”

The Department of Education said last year, for example, that the project would include 90-day benchmarks for short-term performance goals. None of this was included in the draft released this month.

“The governor’s plans are fraught with platitudes and few results,” said State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia. He suggested delays in producing a plan were to benefit Lujan Grisham’s re-election campaign.

Education is expected to be a central issue in the gubernatorial race this year.

Lujan Grisham’s spokeswoman, Maddy Hayden, said the draft is intended to provide a long-term guide and more specific details will be added after the public comment period.

The education reforms were developed “in collaboration across many agencies and there is a shared understanding and responsibility on the part of agencies to do this essential work,” Hayden said.

Lujan Grisham’s office declined to comment on future legal plans, such as seeking to dismiss the lawsuit again, as she unsuccessfully tried to do in 2020.

Earlier this year, the Legislative Assembly and the governor approved $500,000 in legal expenses related to the case. That’s on top of the roughly $6 million already spent by Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and her Republican predecessor fighting the lawsuit since 2014.

Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative body. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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