A judge on Friday ordered New Mexico to provide computers and high-speed internet to at-risk students for remote learning.

The decision comes more than four months after plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit filed a motion claiming the state has failed to provide those children with the necessary tools to study remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson said state officials "must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitution.”

“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,” Wilson continued.

Preston Sanchez, an attorney representing the Yazzie plaintiffs, said in a news release the state's failure to address the technology gap was "catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families."

“Thousands of students are being denied their constitutionally required education sufficient to become college and career ready," Sanchez said. "Many are getting no education at all. The state has to be accountable to New Mexico’s students and families and make access to their education a priority.”

Wilson ruled teachers of at-risk students also must be given the proper digital devices and internet access to ensure the state is fulfilling its duty of providing all students an adequate education.

He also ruled the state must provide school districts with funding for sufficient, qualified information technology staff to help maintain digital devices, cellular hot spots and community Wi-Fi locations, along with other remote learning needs.

Lawyers in the Yazzie/Martinez case successfully sued New Mexico for failing to sufficiently fund public schools, arguing that the state deprived English-language learners, Native Americans, low-income and special education students their constitutional right to an education.

(6) comments

Khal Spencer

This ruling was long overdue. Seemed absurd to tell people that their kids suddenly have to learn from home without any thought as to whether the infrastructure was even present. In some rural locations, as Jim describes, they simply are not and pounding more dollars out of poor people to somehow make the system work when these folks are already paying for the Dept. of Education is obscene.

Stefanie Beninato

At one point about five years ago the SFPS provided each student with a laptop computer that they could bring home. The city was willing to donate its laptops that were going to be replaced. The city and the SFPS have provided hot spots etc. Exactly where in the state are these needs being unfulfilled. It would be helpful to know that.

Jim Klukkert

The Pojoaque Valley is notorious for slow and expensive Internet service, as well as miserable cell phone service and non-existent land line telephone service. As a former teacher grade school through college, I cannot image students being able to do their school work, even if their parents could afford internet service and a decent computer.

The average income where I live is around $30,000 per year.

I hear similar complaints from folks to our north.

Hard to believe we live just downhill from the world's preeminent science center, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Chris Mechels

Los Alamos is NOT the world's pre-eminent science center... That's just hype. They're a very incompetent lab, with some excellent scientists, which gets by as part of the Military Industrial Complex.

They do have good schools though... all my kids were Toppers.

Jim Klukkert

The Pojoaque Valley is a technology desert, and I fear most of rural New Mexico is in the same shape. Check out comments regarding economic development in our fair state, and you will see entrepreneurs and business owners citing lack of digital infrastructure as a barrier to future growth.

But hey, lots of promises over the last 30 years, cheap dependable broadband is coming soon.

Rubbish. Thirty years of rubbish.

Marion Markham

Dear Stephanie, I work for SFPS and have been provided a hotspot by the district but I can tell you that at my house it rarely functions adequately to open the class meeting, school learning platform and the digital text at the same time. If there are videos on or a video to be watched... Forget it. That is not happening. Where is this happening? Right here in Sant Fe County! Nevermind the folks who are truly rural where work packets have been being dropped off and picked up weekly by bus delivery for free lunches. There are places in NM where a lack of infrastructure means no running water or electricity and internet capacity is simply a dream. The internet access gap is REAL and a huge problem in many places including Santa Fe County.

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