New Mexico In Depth editors and reporters discuss education in second legislative chat

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New Mexico In Depth editors held the second of five online chats about the 2024 legislative session yesterday. Indigenous Affairs reporter, Bella Davis, joined Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress to chat about education in general, and tribal education specifically. 

Childress mentioned that 42% of the proposed $10 billion state budget was earmarked for education. Education is “always a big ticket item,” said Jennings. Both mentioned low proficiency rates and low graduation rates as big educational challenges as New Mexico attempts to improve instruction for the 305,000 children enrolled in public schools around the state as well as move the state up the national education rankings. The backdrop to the conversation was the 2018 landmark Yazzie Martinez lawsuit, which found the state had violated the educational rights of Native American, English language-learners, disabled and low-income children. 

Davis went into detail about three legislative initiatives that would allocate public dollars to tribal education efforts, including bringing more teachers into the educational system from under-represented communities. Most Indigenous students never see a teacher who looks like them. She also touched on the history underlying debates over Indian education today, in which Indigenous children were removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. That boarding school era ended decades ago but education is still mostly controlled by state and local governments. Lawmakers are seeking to create a new trust fund that would direct public money to tribes each year to run their own educational programs.  

The three also discussed the connection between educational attainment and income levels. Research has shown that the more education a person has, the more income they are likely to earn. A perennial issue in efforts to develop New Mexico’s economy is growing a skilled and educated workforce.  And they talked about how schools in New Mexico aren’t just for teaching reading and math – they also provide universal free meals and many have school-based health clinics, making them central to the wellbeing of low-income children in particular. 

Watch the video here:

New Mexico In Depth is holding weekly conversations each Thursday at 12:30 during the 30-day legislative session. Next week we’ll be joined by Gwyneth Doland, Professor of Practice in Journalism at the University of New Mexico, and contributing reporter to New Mexico In Depth. Please join us!

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