Parents sue state, seek more funds for public schools

March 21, 2014 • State News

SANTA FE (AP) — Parents [auth] of public school students have sued the state to increase funding for education and target more assistance to disadvantaged students who are living in poverty or learning English.

The lawsuit was announced Thursday by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which filed the case a day earlier with a Gallup lawyer on behalf of parents of students in the Albuquerque and Gallup-McKinley school districts.

The lawsuit contends the state is inadequately funding schools in violation of the New Mexico Constitution’s requirement to provide an equitable and “sufficient” education for all children.

If the lawsuit is successful, the state could be forced to come up with hundreds of millions of tax dollars for schools. A study in 2008 concluded that New Mexico was underfunding schools by as much as 15 percent or more than $300 million at the time.

“Public school education in New Mexico is in crisis,” the lawsuit said. “New Mexico’s students rank at the very bottom in the country in educational achievement.”
The Public Education Department, which is under the control of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, was named as the defendant.

Larry Behrens, a spokesman for the department, said the agency hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on it.

But Behrens said the governor has signed budgets approved by the Legislature to increase spending on public schools since taking office in 2011.

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