ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on New Mexico Republican state lawmakers letter to Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

New Mexico's three Catholic bishops say the head of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops didn't accuse anyone of racism and only pointed out flaws in the state's educational system.

The three leaders wrote in an open letter Tuesday that Allen Sanchez, executive director of the group, has a deep love "for the Gospel" and is an advocate for the state's poor.

The letter comes after 33 GOP state lawmakers sent Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester on letter Monday and asked him if he agreed with remarks about racism made by Sanchez.

Sanchez told The Associated Press last month that "an element of racism" helped kill a proposal to expand early childhood education in the state.

The bishop says lawmakers focus should be on combatting child poverty in New Mexico.

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12:30 a.m.

New Mexico Republican state lawmakers are demanding a response from the Santa Fe archbishop about comments made by a head of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The 33 lawmakers sent Archbishop John Wester on letter Monday asked him if he agreed with remarks about racism made by Allen Sanchez, executive director of the group.

Sanchez told The Associated Press last month that "an element of racism" helped kill a proposal to expand early childhood education in the state.

The constitutional amendment to increase annual distributions from the $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education programs died in a Senate committee.

The GOP lawmakers, who opposed the measure, say Sanchez's comments were "unfair and deliberately inflammatory."