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December 15, 2014

The District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico issued its decision, on November 14, 2014, denying the defendant State's motion to dismiss Martinez v. State, a school funding and educational opportunity case filed by 51 plaintiff parents and children in school districts across the state.

In the written ruling, previously announced orally from the bench on October 23, the court summarized plaintiffs' basic contentions, stating that they allege New Mexico's public school system denies their rights under the state constitution's education clause and its equal protection and due process clauses. Plaintiffs' complaint contains their detailed allegations.

In an effort to prevent the case from going to trial, the State argued that the court should dismiss all of plaintiffs' claims because the plaintiffs themselves lacked standing and their claims were nonjusticiable.

In finding that the plaintiffs do have standing and that the case is, indeed, justiciable, the court noted that the majority of cases from courts in other states ruling in similar cases have denied motions to dismiss and allowed those cases to proceed to trial. Moreover, the court wrote that the New Mexico courts "have a duty to interpret the [state] Constitution, and that nothing exempts the courts from applying that duty to Article XII, Section 1," which is the education clause.

Fundamental Right

The court also concluded that there is a fundamental right to education under the New Mexico Constitution, as

it is difficult to conceive of a service that the State provides ... that is more fundamental than the right to education. Nothing really promotes the ability to be a good citizen or be a productive member of society more than having an education. An educated populace is not only something that is fundamental to our current well-being, it is fundamental to our future well-being.

The court left the question of the level of scrutiny to be applied for determination at the time of trial.

Related Story:
MALDEF Suit Claims New Mexico Denies Right to Education
Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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