Governor OKs infusion of cash for public education

April 3, 2019

Honoring a campaign promise to put more money in public education, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two bills into law Wednesday that provide for expanded learning programs, more dollars for at-risk children and pay increases for the state’s 22,000 public school teachers.

The two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 5, lay out spending policies for a total of $3.25 billion for public education in fiscal year 2020 — an increase of $486 million over the current fiscal year. The appropriation is included in House Bill 2, the state budget, which the governor has yet to sign.

The governor said during a news conference Wednesday that it was “almost a miracle” for lawmakers from both parties and both legislative bodies to come together to craft bills that will serve as reform tools for a state education system that is usually ranked at or near the bottom in national reports.

During the 60-day legislative session, Lujan Grisham repeatedly referred to a need to make a “moonshot” for public education.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, referred to that catchphrase by telling the governor, “We built the rocket, the rocket is fueled, and with your signature, we will have ignition for the moonshot.”

By signing the bills into law, the governor also is preparing the state for an upcoming deadline to meet the mandates of a 2018 District Court ruling that says New Mexico is not meeting its constitutional requirement to provide all students with an equitable public education.

That decision, handed down by First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton of Santa Fe, says New Mexico has shortchanged several groups of students with the highest needs — those learning English as a second language, special-needs students, low-income kids and Native American children.

The governor is expected to approve House Bill 2 by Friday, the last day for her to approve or veto legislation that has made its way to her desk.