A lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools for alleged discriminatory remarks against a Native American student can move forward, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled last week. The New Mexico Court of Appeals decided that APS must adhere to state anti-discriminatory laws and the case has been remanded back to district court to be heard on its merits. Monica Armenta, executive director of communications for APS, said the district is reviewing its options and is considering the option of appeal. In 2018, a teacher at an Albuquerque Public Schools cut one Native American student’s hair and called another Native American student a “bloody Indian,” during a game the students were playing in class on Halloween. The plaintiff argued that the teacher created a hostile learning environment and discriminated against Native American students.
On July 1, a constitutional amendment to increase the distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund t toward educating the state’s youngest children goes into effect. The amendment, approved by voters last fall, would draw an additional 1.25 percent from the fund. Along with money from the state’s general fund, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department will receive $327.6 million for Fiscal Year 2024, a nearly 68 percent increase in funding over Fiscal Year 2023. The department will receive another $120 million from the early childhood trust fund to increase childcare assistance, tribal early childhood services and workforce supports, according to a report compiled by ECECD and the interim Legislative Finance Committee. ECECD Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky gave a presentation before the interim Legislative Finance Committee this week to update the committee on her department’s spending and programs.
With the increased funding for FY24, the home visiting program will grow to $28.3 million.
New Mexico has 360 more repeat child maltreatment cases annually than the national average. The interim Legislative Finance Committee heard a presentation by New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Acting Secretary Teresa Casados on the child protective services division within CYFD on Tuesday. The LFC and CYFD provided a report on repeat child maltreatment. New Mexico is higher than the national average. Casados said one goal of the department is to change that.
Preliminary estimates for 2023 show a “significant uptick” of about 48 percent in homelessness in New Mexico, suggesting an increased need for affordable housing around the state, according to a report. The interim Legislative Finance Committee met on Tuesday and heard housing experts Kathleen Gygi, program evaluator for the Legislative Finance Committee, Amy Whitfield, housing and homeless advisor for the Office of the Governor and Isidoro “Izzy” Hernandez, executive director and chief executive officer of New Mexico Mortgage Finance Committee, on a presentation about homelessness and affordable housing issues. The presenters provided a report for the committee that showed an overview of affordable housing and homelessness in the state. One problem Gygi highlighted is that incomes have not kept up with the cost of rent. Since 2017, rents and home values have grown by 70 percent while income in the state has grown by just 15 percent, Gygi said. Another problem is a lack of bed space for homeless individuals.
Indigenous Women Rising, a grassroots group known for its abortion fund for Indigenous people, is expanding its services. IWR has long provided support to Native individuals who are birthing through a midwifery program alongside its abortion fund. But the organization’s new Emergence Fund will enable the group to expand its reach to Native birthing families across the country, Justin Lorenzo (Laguna Pueblo), midwifery fund director, said.
That will make IWR’s birthing program operate more in tandem with its abortion fund, which has offered support to Native individuals seeking abortion across the U.S. for some time.
Lorenzo said the Emergence Fund will cover midwifery care and doula care and will also help with other needed resources, such as diapers, breastfeeding and other birthing supplies. Department of Health spokesman David Morgan told NM Political Report via email that Medicaid pays for midwifery care and is “working on implementing a doula coverage benefit.”
“But, that is not in place, yet,” Morgan said. But, Lorenzo said that while the state’s Medicaid program covers midwifery, not all clinics in the state accept Medicaid.
A report released by the National Institute for Early Education Research ranks New Mexico near the top for access to pre-Kindergarten.
The report ranks the state in the top 10 for access for three-year-old children for pre-K and ranks New Mexico as number 13 for access for four-year-old children for pre-K. NIEER, a program of Rutgers University, also ranked New Mexico in the top 10 for state spending on early childcare and gave it a score of 9 out of 10 for a quality standards checklist. The reason the state didn’t receive a 10 out of 10 is because it does not require a B.A. as a minimum credential to be a lead teacher in the pre-K classroom, according to the report. A lead teacher in a nonpublic pre-K can be working toward a B.A. degree, according to the report. Overall, 42 percent of New Mexico’s four-year-old children are attending pre-K, while 11 percent of the state’s three-year-old children are enrolled in pre-K.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument on Wednesday about the abortion drug mifepristone.
The case against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, brought by a conservative group called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, was first heard in Texas by Amarillo-based District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk earlier this spring. Kacsmaryk ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, a group of doctors who say they have had to treat women in emergency room settings when a medication abortion has led to complications. The doctors say they have conscientious objections to caring for abortion patients. The group, who have been accused of “judge shopping” since they have no known relationship to Amarillo but filed suit there, claim the FDA’s approval process of mifepristone in 2000 was rushed to market too soon and that the FDA did so by calling pregnancy “an illness.” They want to see the drug removed from the market and restudied. The U.S. Department of Justice, which argued the case on Wednesday, said the plaintiffs lack standing and that the case is time barred because the approval process took place 23 years ago.
As part of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2023 executive order to transform the Children, Youth and Families Department, the department rolled out a new dashboard during a press conference on Tuesday. The dashboard can be found on CYFD’s new website, https://www.togetherwethrivenm.org/. It is one way the department is trying to be more accountable. Lujan Grisham issued an executive order earlier this year to make systemic change to an agency that has been rocked by allegations of neglect to abuse under its watch in recent years. Earlier this month, a new CYFD advisory council met with members of the press and the public to discuss how the council and the department would meet the mandates of the executive order.
As the Legislative Education Study, an interim legislative committee, considers what it might recommend for the 2024 Legislative session, the committee heard about a STEM scholar program and the educational funding formula. John Sena, Legislative Education Study deputy director, discussed educational funding formulas. He said the current formula “was really progressive in the ‘70s.”
“It continues to be pretty progressive but the question is whether there is enough money in the formula,” he said. He said districts receive more funding if they are serving more at-risk students or providing for more special education students. Another listening session included University of New Mexico scientists who presented information about a public teacher science scholar program called the Rose Project.
Despite abortion in New Mexico remaining legal and recent legislation to further protect care, municipalities and counties have passed more anti-abortion ordinances than other states that are considered pro-abortion. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told NM Political Report that attempts to pass similar ordinances have occurred in other states but no other state has had as many locales pass anti-abortion ordinances as New Mexico that are pro-abortion. Her group monitors anti-abortion ordinances passed at the local level around the U.S.
The town of Edgewood is the latest of six locales in New Mexico that have passed anti-abortion ordinances. The city council passed the ordinance at the end of an eight-hour public meeting last month. When asked if she thought New Mexico has become the new battleground for abortion rights, Miller said that “might be giving these things too much credence.”
“A very small proportion of these kinds of extreme measures are up against an overwhelming degree of support and elected officials are taking affirmative steps at the state level to not only safeguard access but also to expand it,” she said.