On August 4, after eight weeks of trial before First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton, attorneys representing students, parents, and school district plaintiffs and the State Attorney General’s office wrapped up trial testimony in Martinez v. State, a pivotal educational opportunity case. The outcome will have a major impact on the right of New Mexico students to a quality education under the State constitution.

“It was very clear from the defense that the State is in denial about the educational crisis that New Mexico students face,” said Marisa Bono, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel. “We look forward to a ruling from the court that will force the state to stop fiddling while Rome burns, and start providing equal educational opportunities to all students.”

Plaintiffs presented evidence of persistently low outcomes, especially for low-income students, Native Americans and English language learners, and the lack of sufficient funding for essential resources and programs in New Mexico schools. They presented proofs – for example, that the State’s high quality Pre-K and K-3 Plus programs show excellent results – but pointed out that there is insufficient funding to serve all children who are eligible and in need of these interventions.

Plaintiffs also offered proofs on State education funding levels, which have risen in recent years but remain below their 2007 pre-recession level. These and other proofs, plaintiffs contend, demonstrate that the State is violating the New Mexico Constitution’s guarantee of educational opportunity for all school children.

Defendants’ witnesses countered that although some outcomes are unfortunately low, the State is not violating the Constitution. They stated that money alone cannot deliver better outcomes and emphasized accountability.  The acting Public Education Department Secretary disputed claims that poverty has a negative impact on achievement.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed Martinez v. State in 2014, to establish education as a fundamental right and ensure meaningful educational opportunities for all students, especially  those who are economically disadvantaged, English learners, Native-American, and/or of Spanish-heritage. The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed a similar case, Yazzie v. State, also in 2014, and the trial court consolidated these cases.

The parties will submit post-trial briefs to Judge Singleton, who is expected to issue a decision this fall or winter. An appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court is anticipated.

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Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240