The public schools enroll 339,000 students: 61% Latino, 25% White, and 10% Native American, with 67% living in poverty, and 15% learning English. The State spends $9,164 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“A uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of, and open to, all the children of school age in the state shall be established and maintained.” N.M. Const. art. XII, § 1.
“The legislature shall provide for the training of teachers…so that they may become proficient in both the English and Spanish languages, to qualify them to teach Spanish-speaking pupils.” N.M. Const., art. XII, § 8.
“Children of Spanish descent in the State of New Mexico shall never be denied the right and privilege of admission and attendance in the public schools…and they shall never be classed in separate schools, but shall forever enjoy perfect equality with other children in all public schools and educational institutions in the state.” N.M. Const., art. XII, § 10.
In the early 1970s, plaintiffs challenged the New Mexico school funding system because expenditures varied dramatically based on local school district wealth. The case was settled before trial when New Mexico decided to fund educational operating costs from State revenues and provide essentially equal resources to every school district. The 1974 Public School Finance Act resulted in the State funding over 80% of education costs.
In 1999, in Zuni School District v. State, the trial court ordered the State to establish and implement an equitable and uniform funding system for school facilities. The State adopted a new capital funding system intended to establish a standards-based and uniform adequacy level for facilities in all districts. The Zuni case is still open, but the plaintiff school districts have not asked the court to act on this case in recent years.
In 2014, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed Martinez v. State, seeking to establish education as a fundamental right and ensure that New Mexico's economically disadvantaged, English-learner, Native-American and Spanish-heritage children are provided with a sufficient education, in accordance with the New Mexico Constitution and the Indian Education Act, Hispanic Education Act, and Bilingual Multicultural Education Act.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed a similar case, Yazzie v. State, in 2014. The Court consolidated these cases, and the parties are preparing for trial, scheduled for 2017.