Last month a state judge ruled that New Mexico's school finance system was unconstitutional and failed to provide enough funds to schools.
Education Week reports State District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state doesn't pay teachers enough, is not providing up-to-date learning materials and has not incentivized teaching in poorly performing schools. Failing to meet these needs violates the state constitution, which insures a “uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education” of the state's children.
The case involved a lawsuit filed against the state by a number of plaintiffs represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. The suit claimed that a lack of oversight has created hurdles for the state's students—especially low-income students.
Judge Singleton ordered the governor and Legislature to establish a system that meets constitutional requirements by April 15, 2019. The state is expected to appeal the ruling.
Teacher Shortage Hits APS
Albuquerque Public Schools faced hundreds of teacher vacancies as schools opened their doors for the first time this year.
According to the job postings page on the APS website, the school district was still looking for more than 500 new employees to fill vacancies—including nearly 300 positions for teachers—on the first day of school. Over 160 of those positions were for special education teachers.
The district is apparently not alone in this crisis. The US is currently suffering from an educator shortage as teacher protests sparked across the nation this year and the number of people pursuing education majors in higher education reach record lows.
Albuquerque school officials have said that the empty teaching positions will be filled by substitute teachers until more permanent solutions are found. Classes will be evaluated after the first 20 days and restructured if needed.
APS Appeals Hawthorne Decision
Albuquerque Public Schools says the Public Education Department has illegally overstepped its bounds and is asking a judge to intervene.
Three APS schools were deemed in need of “more rigorous intervention” (MRI) last year by PED officials. The schools were given the opportunity to present their own restructuring plans, and two of those plans were accepted. The plan for Hawthorne Elementary was rejected, however, and PED said the school will close at the end of the 2020-2021 year if it fails to earn a C grade or better over the next three school years.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that APS filed an appeal on Aug. 3, accusing Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski of stepping outside the department's purview when he included closure of Hawthorne among the department's possible future actions. It also claims the MRI designation violates the state's constitution, which guarantees “uniform” treatment for schools.
The district has requested that all actions against Hawthorne be suspended until the judge has made a decision.