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

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.

Lawmakers will again push for more tribal control over how Indigenous children are educated 

A proposal to create a trust fund that would give tribes in New Mexico more money and control to run their own education programs is back for the 2024 legislative session. Supporters are optimistic about their chances this year after last year’s unsuccessful attempt to include it in the state budget.There are reasons for optimism.Tucked into the Legislature’s proposed $10.1 billion budget is $50 million for the new fund. Rep. Derrick Lente, a Democrat from Sandia Pueblo, says top lawmakers have assured him the fund will get another $50 million, for $100 million total, during the 30-day session.The question is whether Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will go along. 

If the $100 million request navigates the sometimes-perilous budgeting process successfully, tribes would use annual interest earned on the fund for language revitalization efforts and career readiness programs, among other needs. 

“What we want in tribal communities is for our elders, our own people to teach our children about what’s important to our communities,” Lente told New Mexico In Depth. “We need to be fluent in our language. We need to know how our government works.