Plaintiffs in a historic educational lawsuit on Friday pointed to a new court filing from Judge Sarah Singleton to say that state officials should reverse how they’re funding public education: Instead of seeing how much they have to spend first, they should identify educational needs and then figure out how much they cost. Singleton’s eight-page order, issued Thursday, comes as the lawsuit’s plaintiffs and allies are in a tug of war with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature over how much new money to earmark for the state’s public schools. A coalition of plaintiffs, teachers, parents, students, district superintendents, bilingual experts and nonprofit organizations want the governor and state lawmakers to dedicate $1 billion in new funding, double what the governor and the Legislature are proposing.
Singleton’s order is short compared to her ruling last year, which found New Mexico guilty of shirking its constitutional duty to adequately educate at-risk students, but it packs a wallop. The judge wrote of New Mexico’s school children caught in an “inadequate system” who will “be irreparably harmed if better programs are not instituted,” And that the state’s duty is to “not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitutional resources.”Those shortcomings should be addressed “as soon as practicable,” Singleton wrote.