New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham killed a bill Friday that would have strengthened Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s authority to protect children’s rights and address racial disparities in how schools discipline children. The AG’s office defends state agencies accused of wrongdoing, but Torrez had wanted a new Civil Rights Division to investigate abuses by state agencies, school districts and other public bodies. Attorneys general in other states pursue civil rights cases, he noted. Both chambers of the Legislature listened, passing the bill in the final week of the legislative session. Days before the deadline for acting on legislation, Lujan Grisham expressed mixed feelings about the legislation, saying prosecutors already have tools to investigate neglect and abuse, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Gallup School Superintendent Says Changing a Label Explains Away Its Harsh Native Student Discipline. It Doesn’t.
At New Mexico in Depth and ProPublica, we practice “no surprises” journalism: No one should read anything about themselves in our articles without first having had a chance to respond.
So journalists in our newsrooms were surprised to read in the Gallup Sun, a weekly newspaper, that the superintendent of Gallup-McKinley County Schools had criticized our story about his school district. We had given him ample opportunity to respond to our reporting, but the Sun did not give us that opportunity in turn.
Superintendent Mike Hyatt told the Sun and school board members that he ignored our requests to talk to him because he believed we had a predetermined narrative. That’s not the case. ProPublica, a national nonprofit investigative news outlet, partnered with New Mexico In Depth, a state-based nonprofit news organization, to look at school discipline across New Mexico. We wanted to understand what was driving high rates of discipline for Native American students in the state.
Native leaders say tribal education trust fund would be game changer
Education programs run by Native American tribes in New Mexico rely in part on money from the state, but accessing those dollars makes it difficult to complete all of the work they envision.Tribal leaders and advocates have long lobbied for a change. This year they want to make it happen.Each year, tribes can apply for grants, and if their applications are approved, they must spend the money first and then submit documentation to the state for reimbursement.
On paper, it sounds straightforward. But in reality, sometimes tribes can’t spend down all the money by an artificial deadline. In fiscal year 2020-2021, 22 tribes received grants under the Indian Education Act but only two requested reimbursement for the full amount they were awarded.
It’s a cycle that repeats year after year, hampering their ability to realize the vision of educating their own children.
With state lawmakers heading into the 2023 legislative session with a multi-billion dollar surplus, Rep. Derrick Lente, a Democrat from Sandia Pueblo, said he will introduce legislation to create a $50 million tribal education trust fund that would provide tribes automatic funding every year.
Tribes would use annual interest earned on trust fund money for language revitalization efforts, resources such as wi-fi, and career readiness programs, among other priorities. It would give tribes greater autonomy, Lente said.
Gallup School Superintendent Says Our Story About Expulsions in His District Is Incorrect. Here’s Why He’s Wrong.
This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories from ProPublica like this one as soon as they are published. And sign up here for New Mexico In Depth stories. Gabriella Trujillo, special to ProPublica
Over the four academic years ending in spring 2020, Gallup-McKinley County Schools reported to New Mexico officials that it had expelled students at least 211 times, far more often than school districts in the rest of the state. Yet on Jan.
Native students are expelled in New Mexico far more than any other group. This school district is ground zero for the disparity.
This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with New Mexico In Depth. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published. And sign up here for journalism from New Mexico In Depth. One chilly March afternoon, dozens of Navajo children spilled out of their middle school to play in the snow before heading home. Students in jackets and parkas can be seen on grainy security camera footage chasing and pushing one another to the ground.
How We Found the School District Responsible for Much of New Mexico’s Outsized Discipline of Native Students
This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with New Mexico In Depth. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published. And sign up here for journalism from New Mexico In Depth. New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica used data from the New Mexico Public Education Department to analyze student discipline rates across the state. The news outlets found that one district, Gallup-McKinley County Schools, played an outsized role in the disproportionate discipline of Native American students in the state. That district enrolls more Native students than any other public school district in the United States and a quarter of Native students in the state. Through public records requests, the news organizations obtained a spreadsheet of all disciplinary incidents reported by school districts to the state Public Education Department.
State coordinator says New Mexico likely undercounts homeless students
School districts across New Mexico are likely failing to accurately count the number of students experiencing homelessness, Dana Malone, coordinator for the state’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, told New Mexico In Depth.
That failure means vulnerable children probably are missing out on crucial services and being denied educational rights they’re entitled to. Such undercounting is a nationwide trend, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity that found schools don’t know about as many as 300,000 students who may meet the definition of homelessness established by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Act. Under McKinney-Vento, children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence are defined as homeless, including those who are “doubled up,” or sharing another person’s housing due to a loss of housing or economic hardship.
The 1987 law guarantees those children a number of rights to help break down barriers to education, such as the right to remain at the school they were attending when they were stably housed and the right to transportation to and from school.
Critical to helping homeless students access the support they’re due are special school staff, called “liaisons,” that Malone trains and supports. Districts appoint the liasons, who identify and connect students with services. Funded by federal grants and other sources, the liaison positions are often part-time in small districts, but larger districts, like Albuquerque, have full-time staff dedicated to homeless students.
Malone is tasked with ensuring New Mexico’s 89 school districts and dozens of charter schools are in compliance with McKinney-Vento.
In the spring, Malone plans to begin monitoring a number of districts she suspects are undercounting students.
Thousands of schools fail to count homeless students
For months, Beth Petersen paid acquaintances to take her son to school — money she sorely needed. They’d lost their apartment, her son bouncing between relatives and friends while she hotel-hopped. As hard as she tried to keep the 13-year-old at his school, they finally had to switch districts. Under federal law, Petersen’s son had a right to free transportation — and to remain in the school he attended at the time he lost permanent housing. But no one told Petersen that.
Schools must help homeless students. Here’s what you should know.
This story was produced as part of a collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity, The Seattle Times, Street Sense Media and WAMU/DCist. See New Mexico In Depth’s story here. When is a student considered homeless? The definition of homelessness among K-12 students is laid out in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law that details the help public schools must give unstably housed children. That includes students living in the following conditions:
motels, hotels or campgrounds when they have no other options.emergency or transitional shelters.cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.the homes of friends or extended relatives, due to need rather than choice.
Thousands of Native students attend Albuquerque schools. Most will never have a Native teacher.
Growing up in Albuquerque, high school junior Brook Chavez, who is Diné, never had a Native American teacher until last year, when she took a Navajo language and culture class.
There, the 16 year old learned more about her culture and connected with other Diné youth, coming away prouder about who she is. She felt understood by her teacher, David Scott, also Diné, in ways she hasn’t always in the classroom.
“I learned a lot about my clans, my stories,” Chavez said, adding that at the end of the first semester, she and her classmates performed at Native American Winter Stories, an Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) event. “That’s one of my fondest memories because I got to dress up traditional with all my friends.”
Chavez just wishes she hadn’t had to wait so long.
There’s consensus among advocates and education officials that it’s important for teacher workforces to be representative of student populations, which research shows is linked to better student outcomes. Same-race teachers can act as important advocates and role models. But Chavez’s experience is one that many Native American children attending school in Albuquerque are unlikely to have in the classroom, at least in the near future.
While parents of nearly 10% of APS students report they have tribal affiliations, only 1.2% of teachers the district employed during the last school year were Native American, according to district data.
The state Public Education Department identified increasing racial diversity among teachers as a priority in its draft plan released in May in response to Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico, a 2018 court ruling that found the state has failed to provide an adequate education to Native children, among other student groups.
And district officials in Albuquerque say they’re working to hire more Native American teachers.
Tribal Remedy Framework boosted with funding
With about 24 hours left in this year’s session, Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Albuquerque, was celebrating additional money earmarked in the state budget to help tribes take more control over educating their own children.
“We’re walking out of the session with $35 million for the tribal remedy framework,” said Lente of the Sandia Pueblo. The tribal remedy framework is a set of goals negotiated and agreed to by the state’s 23 tribes going into this year’s session that would beef up tribal education departments and resources.In recent years tribes have demanded more control over educating their own children and have used the 2018 landmark Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico court ruling to buttress their case. That ruling found New Mexico negligent in providing a sufficient education to at-risk students, which includes Indigenous students.Indigenous students make up about 34,000, or 11% of New Mexico’s K-12 student population and they lag behind their New Mexico peers in reading, math, high school graduation and college enrollment. The Yazzie/Martinez decision suggested those outcomes mostly stem from decades of underspending and neglect by New Mexico, shattering the perception that blame rests on children and their families instead of on a systemic failure.Lente and others had sought more than $40 million in additional money for tribes, but the $35 million is a significant boost over previous years. For example, $15 million of the $35 million in the budget would go toward beefing up tribal education departments and is substantially more than the $5.25 million appropriated for this year, which ends June 30.