FILES COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY LAWSUIT
On April 1, 2014, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)
filed a lawsuit, Louise Martinez v State of New Mexico, seeking to establish
education as a fundamental right and to ensure that New Mexico's at-risk children
are provided a sufficient education as required under the New Mexico Constitution.
"Every state has an obligation to prepare all of its students to succeed in
the future, and New Mexico is failing in this duty with respect to far too
many of its children and future leaders," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President
and General Counsel. "The courts must act to bring justice and equity
to New Mexico's education system."
The parent plaintiffs and other supporting organizations challenge the State's
denial of their children's constitutional right to access the educational opportunities
they need to succeed in the classroom. The
complaint asserts that this right has been violated
through a series of State-created arbitrary obstacles, including unfair and
non-transparent school accountability grading and teacher evaluation systems
that drive quality teachers and leaders from schools disproportionately enrolling
English Learner (EL) and low-income students.
Plaintiffs also complain of the arbitrary and inadequate funding for EL and
economically disadvantaged students, as well as the State's failure to expand
pre-kindergarten programs to ensure all at-risk students can access those programs. Plaintiffs
further argue that the State's failure to support and implement fully the Indian
Education Act, the Hispanic Education Act, and the Bilingual Multicultural
Education Act deprive students of the cultural programs that are essential
to a sufficient education as required under the New Mexico Constitution.
"Every year that passes, is another year of lost opportunity for New Mexican
school children," stated MALDEF lead counsel David Hinojosa. "It's time
for the courts to step in and put an end to this egregious pattern of political
pandering and neglect that only harms the children."
MALDEF began its investigation a couple of years ago following its discussions
concerning the chronic achievement gaps with several local and state community
groups, including the Latino Education Task Force, as well as local leaders
and parents in New Mexico. These gaps included 20-plus percentage points
on the State's standardized tests, with less than one-half of the minority
and at-risk students earning "proficient" ratings on their tests. Following
the substantial investigation, and another failed legislative session; the
parents and children asked MALDEF to sue.
Plaintiff parent Louise Martinez added, "I went to the same school
my daughter attends, and nothing has changed. The school is rated F, the classrooms
are overcrowded, the kids need support, and violence is high. My children and
all the children in New Mexico deserve better. Tomorrow is too late, we need
to change New Mexico's education system now."