January 19, 2021

Lawmaker wants high-ranking administration positions to address Hispanic education

An Albuquerque lawmaker wants the state to do more to help Hispanic students who are falling behind. 

Toward that end, Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, plans to file a bill this week asking the state to appoint two assistant cabinet secretary positions for Hispanic education at both the K-12 and college levels.

Among other goals, the new administrators would work on developing multicultural education materials and curriculum, plus hiring bilingual teachers to best meet the needs of Hispanic students. 

Trujillo, who asked the Legislative Education Study Committee to endorse her bill heading into the 2021 legislative session, said Monday it’s an update of a legislative proposal pitched by former Rep. Rick Miera,  the onetime head of the House Education Committee, some 10 years ago. 

She said her bill is directly tied to the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico court case, in which a number of plaintiffs sued the state, contending it was not providing enough resources to offer a quality education for certain groups of students, including Hispanic children. 

A state district judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the state to find ways to meet the needs of those students. 

“This bill institutes what the judge wanted in terms of supporting children of color — in this case, Hispanic students,” Trujillo said Monday. 

Traditionally, Hispanic students have lagged behind their white counterparts. State data from 2019 shows just 30 percent of New Mexico’s Hispanic students were proficient in reading, compared to 48 percent of white students.

In math, the differences are even more stark, with just 16 percent of Hispanic students reaching proficiency levels, compared to 34 percent of whites. 

Her bill includes a number of components to support Hispanic students in both public schools and colleges, including working out a five-year strategic plan to improve student enrollment and achievement at the college level.

Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo and a member of the committee, said he supports Trujillo’s bill.

“I find it ironic that two largest minority groups in New Mexico — Native Americans and Hispanics — are doing what they have to do on their own to create equity for their own children,” he said.

The committee voted Monday to endorse Trujillo’s bill, which means it will make its way to at least one House committee for consideration during the 60-day session, which starts Tuesday. 

It includes an appropriation of $110,000 to hire an assistant secretary at the K-12 level. Trujillo said there already is money in the state’s higher education budget to cover the cost of the other position.