As Secretary-designate Ryan Stewart begins work at the Public Education Department, we appreciate that he has said his first order of business is to listen and learn.
Transform Education New Mexico has developed a platform of action that details the ways in which New Mexico must transform its system of education to ensure all students have the opportunity to be college, career and civics ready. We urge Secretary-designate Stewart to put this item at the top of his reading list.
We are a uniquely diverse state with 23 sovereign pueblos, tribes and nations; a third of our families speaking a language other than English at home. The platform was developed by hundreds of educational and community leaders, and provides a detailed roadmap for creating a public education system that:
• Embraces, reflects and incorporates the cultural and linguistic heritage of our diverse communities as a foundation for all learning;
• Provides professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators that focus on responsive cultural and linguistic pedagogy;
• Provides extended learning opportunities that offer students more time in school and foster innovation;
• Values our teachers and educators and puts them in a position to succeed here in New Mexico;
• Allows all children to access full-day pre-Kindergarten programs that are culturally and linguistically responsive;
• Offers social services that mitigate the impact of poverty and trauma on learning;
• Ensures our schools receive financial resources required to meet the needs of all children.
We are not there yet, and his leadership will be critical to delivering for our students.
A state District Court ruled New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of students to a sufficient education and exposed a litany of shortcomings in funding, programming and Public Education Department oversight.
The ruling ordered the state to take immediate steps to provide resources to address the system deficiencies and fully support the three-quarters of our students who are either low-income, Native American, Hispanic, English language learner or special needs. Despite several attempts during the last legislative session, that has not happened.
New Mexico is not meeting state and federal requirements and its responsibilities for a bilingual, multicultural education framework established in the New Mexico Indian Education Act, Hispanic Education Act and Bilingual Multicultural Education Act.
The hard truth in New Mexico is that we know what works, but the state has not fully committed to the funding, support and oversight necessary to provide or effectively implement programs and accompanying professional development and services available to students who need them most.
The court was clear on two things: Responsibility for remedying the state’s education failures rests squarely on the Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and the Public Education Department; and there can be no more excuses. With a windfall of over a billion dollars, the Legislature and governor are in a position to make game changing investments for New Mexico’s students.
Secretary-designate Stewart’s role is critical in setting the vision, pushing for the necessary resources and following through on changes. That will require collaborating with New Mexico’s students, tribes, rural and urban communities, teachers, school administrators and school boards and colleges and universities to ensure our families, tribal leaders, educators and local experts are at the forefront of shaping and implementing a comprehensive education plan that provides a constitutionally sufficient education for all of our children.
We have an opportunity, like never before, to combine what we know works for students with the state investment necessary to transform education and set the course for a prosperous future. We’re here to support Secretary-designate Stewart and get that goal accomplished. Let’s get to work.
Patricia Jiménez-Latham is the Transform Education New Mexico Coalition manager. The full Transform Education N.M. platform is at www.transformeducationnm.org.