It was a good year for education. Whether it was great depended on who you asked. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislative leaders, both Democratic and Republican, extoled investments New Mexico made in education Saturday as the 60-day session came to a close.
“This is a Legislature that delivered a moonshot,” the governor nearly shouted during a post-session press conference in her Cabinet Room on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse.
State lawmakers pumped an additional $500 million into the public schools budget and created a new early education department. Teachers and school administrators received a salary increase. And money for early childhood programs got a boost.
But bills that emphasized multicultural, bilingual education and strengthened the community school model – ideas that some lawmakers and education advocates consider transformational – seemed destined to die, stuck in legislative committees.
Then in the final hours of the 2019 legislative session, two of them were pulled from certain death and placed on the Senate floor Saturday morning.
The Multicultural Education Framework, a centerpiece of the Transform Education NM coalition of Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit plaintiffs and community advocates, was defeated, going down on on a 14-22 vote, with seven Democrats voting against the bill.
In contrast, a bill that strengthens the community school model, cleared the Senate after contentious debate on a bipartisan vote of 24-15 and and is headed to Lujan Grisham’s desk. A priority of the governor, the community school model provides social supports for struggling students and makes schools a community hub.
Sen. Mimi Stewart, a retired teacher who chairs the Legislative Education Study Committee, put up a spirited defense of the legislation.
The community schools idea had been long studied by the LESC, she said.