‘New Mexico’s education department is in court. So are those in 12 other states, including Florida. This lawsuit is about money, but not just the amount of money. In New Mexico, the population is different from many states, and the needs are greater.
Meredith Machen sent information about their state that helps to better understand the challenges they face. Take heart, some public education advocates are winning in court.
State legislatures are mandating high content standards, annual testing, and accountability measures for which there is limited to no state funding support, according to David Sciarra of the Education Law Center in New Jersey. Now 13 states are in court over funding complaints. Washington and Kansas education advocates won judgments but have yet to see more money flowing to schools. This year, MALDEF in New Mexico, filed an amended complaint to their lawsuit to correct inequities.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs charge that the State has not provided a uniform system of free public schools. The complaint rejoins that a budget for education provide a constitutionally sufficient and equitable education for all children. Supportive data are compelling:
- New Mexico’s state achievement ranks at the very bottom.
- New Mexico’s funding formula does not provide adequate funding for children living in poverty or English language learners.
- Sixty seven percent of children are designated as living in low income families and are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
- Fourteen percent of children live in extreme poverty (less than $12,000 for a family of 4). Only Mississippi and Louisiana are higher. Seventy two percent are children of color.
- The percentage of the state budget for education has declined over 30 years from 51.6 to 44 percent.
The Lack of Suffficiency argument states that:
- The state has a State Equalization Formula to adjust funding across districts but the amount is inadequate.
- NM ranks 37th in per pupil funding even though it has such a high level of children living in poverty.
- Funding adjustments for at risk index is lower in NM than most states. It is only a 3% adjustment.
- Teachers with more training and experience are employed in more affluent areas.
Below the Line Funding violates uniformity provision
- Supplemental funding grants go certain low income schools and cover 13,000 of 63,000 eligible students.
- Only 1/3 of districts are funded for PreK education.
- Charter high schools receive a $2,000 per student small schools supplement . The districts are losing students and may have to convert to small schools to compete. The ultimate cost will be higher for everyone.
Lack of opportunity
- New Mexico has a teacher shortage creating higher class sizes.
- There is a shortage of instructional materials particularly in reading.
Specific district needs are unmet for Hispanic and American Indian students.
Median family income in New Mexico ranges from a high in 2010 of nearly $120,000 in Los Alamos to a low of $ 33,000 in Luna County. The state ranks 43rd in median household income. While some areas are affluent, most are not. With the competition for state funding from Medicaid, the trade off is difficult.