Tuesday, March 28, 2023

New Mexico advocates review plan aimed at education shortages

SANTA FE, NM ( Associated Press) — The governor of New Mexico has presented a long-awaited plan It will set goals for academic proficiency as the state struggles to resolve a lawsuit by frustrated parents, who won a court ruling that the state failed to provide adequate education for the vast majority of its students. .

Michel Lujan Grisham’s motion, issued earlier this month, aims to satisfy a 2018 court ruling and ongoing litigation to ensure students have sufficient resources to pursue careers or college education.

New Mexico is one of a long list of states where parents have turned to the court 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 drive discussion and budget priorities in the Legislature next year, along with immediate reforms by the state’s public education department. However, critics say it lacks specifications, including detailed funding plans and timelines.

Native American education advocates and tribal leaders put forth their own plan in 2019. This is called the “Tribal Measures Framework”, it cites The litigation clauses make specific recommendations and suggest a specific amount of money to be carried out.

“While I am hopeful and happy (Department of Public Education) has released its report and started to proceed on their response, I am still perplexed as to why they have yet to publicly discuss the tribal treatment framework. Not adopted,” said Rep. Derrick. Sandia Pueblo’s Lente. He called the proposed draft “one we know best to approach native children”, and contrasted it with the collaborative plan presented by tribesmen and advocates.

Education advocates had hoped that the governor’s resolution would be shared in December, before the January assembly session, but this did not happen. and the state budget was passed in february.

The governor’s plan can also be used to determine whether state courts monitor spending and initiatives to improve public education.

The court found that the state’s investment in education, as well as students’ educational outcomes, proved that “the majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children do not have the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue secondary education in every school.” end the year or a business.”

For the groups involved in the lawsuit, which make up about 70% of children in the state, proficiency in reading and math at several grade levels was far worse than other students, with about 4% to 15% proficient, the court found.

Lujan Grisham’s draft plan will set academic performance goals that include a 50% increase in test scores compared to the 2019 numbers for children involved in the trial — which include Native American, English learners and students with disabilities. But the Department of Education admits it cannot measure growth at present.

The administration has changed proficiency tests twice since a 2018 court ruling, limiting the state’s ability to argue in court that there has been improvement.

The state did not conduct extensive testing of students for two consecutive years during the pandemic. It’s introducing a new battery of tests this year.

“When New Mexico’s assessment data is finalized and compiled later this summer,[the Department of Public Education]will reset that baseline and work on the draft,” said Carolyn Graham, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Education. The goals defined in the plan will be linked to that data.” Statement. “It’s also important to note that the draft plan is actually a draft, and we look forward to receiving valuable feedback.”

The draft plan does not make any funding suggestions. This highlights recent increases in education spending approved by the governor, including recent significant teacher pay increases and increased overall education funding. Education now accounts for about 45 percent of the $8.5 billion General Fund budget. Unlike most other states, New Mexico funds schools through the state budget rather than relying on property tax revenue.

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

Plaintiffs’ representatives in the ongoing trial welcome the draft plan and the opportunity to respond. But they are not satisfied with the level of detail provided by the state.

“It is clear that it still lacks the key elements we are seeking at a statewide level: concrete targets, action steps, projected funding levels, timelines, responsible parties, and projected staffing needs,” said Melissa Candelaria, New Mexico’s director of education, the Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement. “Community input is important, but will be more constructive on a thorough plan.”

For example, the Department of Education said last year that the draft would include 90-day benchmarks for short-term performance targets. None of these were included in the draft released this month.

“The governor’s plans are heavy on promises and short on results,” said State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia. He suggested that the delay in formulating a plan was to benefit Lujan Grisham’s re-election campaign.

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

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

Education reforms, Hayden said, were “developed in collaboration with multiple agencies and there is a shared understanding and accountability on the part of the agencies to accomplish this important task.”

Lujan Grisham’s office declined to comment on future legal plans, such as seeking a retrial of the lawsuit, as it unsuccessfully attempted in 2020.

Earlier this year, the legislature and governor approved $500,000 in legal expenses related to the case. This is on top of an estimated $6 million already spent by the Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, Lujan Grisham, to fight the lawsuit since 2014.

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