Santa Fe school board members skeptical that state funding meets judge’s requirements

April 17, 2019

Some Santa Fe school board members say they don’t think education funding in the new state budget satisfies a judge’s finding that New Mexico has failed to provide enough money to offer a quality education for all students.

The board is scheduled to discuss the issue at a Tuesday evening meeting.

The discussion comes as both state leaders and the plaintiffs in a long-fought court battle are about to begin filing arguments over whether the state’s latest spending plans do or don’t do enough to satisfy the court mandate.

State District Judge Sarah Singleton of Santa Fe ruled last year that the state had not met its constitutional duty with regard to adequate school funding.

During the recent 60-day legislative session, lawmakers and the governor agreed to appropriate an extra $480 million for education during the fiscal year that begins in July.

Some Santa Fe school board members say that’s not enough.

“I don’t think we met the needs of the lawsuit,” board member Maureen Cashmon said. “You don’t want to bite the hands that feed you as far as the Legislature or the governor, but I don’t think they went far enough with funding for schools. The budget only brings us back to the funding levels in 2008, and even then we weren’t providing enough for education. It’s not sufficient.”

Singleton ruled that the state had violated its constitution by failing to offer adequate educations to Native American students, English language learners and students with disabilities. The judge also said New Mexico schools lack quality pre-kindergarten, summer learning opportunities, extended learning time, dual language, culturally and linguistically relevant education, social services, small class sizes and sufficient funding for teacher recruitment, retention and training.

Board member Steve Carrillo said he worries that the state worked backward by first deciding to appropriate the additional $480 million and then dividing it up among different programs. Instead, Carrillo says, the state should have first determined the cost of fully funding all necessary school programs before settling on a number as the basis of a sufficient budget.

“Judge Singleton didn’t ask for a first step. She didn’t ask for a beginning,” Carrillo said. “What she asked for is a specific plan to make sure that we are funding education properly. It’s pretty clear that this budget doesn’t do that beyond offering an increase of funding for this one year.”

The board is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Service Center, 610 Alta Vista St.