On the campaign trail in fall 2018, then-candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham proudly declared that she would not appeal New Mexico’s landmark educationlawsuit, Yazzie v. Martinez, which called foul on decades of inequitable distribution of education resources, particularly in Native communities.
Lujan Grisham went so far as to demand a promise from sitting Gov. Susanna Martinez that she would not appeal the decision:
Today, I am calling on Governor Martinez to publicly commit to not appealing the landmark education lawsuit decision. However, if Governor Martinez does not put our students and educators first, I will immediately halt any appeal initiated by her administration upon taking office.
If only campaign promises translated to practice.
Even after Wilhelmina Yazzie, the lead plaintiff of the case, and co-counsels filed a motion declaring New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) as out compliance with the court order, now-Governor Lujan Grisham filed a rebutting motion to fully dismiss Yazzie.
Not quite an appeal, but what, practically, is the difference?
Six of one, half dozen of the other. Fiery campaign rhetoric turns into mushy policy once again.
This week, New Mexico district judge Matthew Wilson not only denied the motion to dismiss but allows for further discovery requiring in-depth documentation from NMPED:
There is a lack of evidence in this case that the defendants have substantially satisfied this court’s express orders regarding all at risk students. The court’s injunction requires comprehensive educational reform that demonstrates substantial improvement and that these students are actually college or career ready.
Ouch, that’s a couple of Ls at once. Lujan Grisham not only loses her motion to dismiss the case she promised not to appeal, the court finds little evidence of improvement and requires the state to fully pull back the curtain on their spending and efforts.
This might be a problem for an administration which fired their homegrown Secretary of Education within seven months and replaced her with an out-of-state first-timer who’s spent the last four months at home in Philadelphia.
Local advocates have cheered Judge Wilson’s actions, including Anpao Duta Flying Earth, the executive director of NACA Inspired Schools Network. Perhaps awkwardly, the founder of the network and Duta’s former boss, Kara Bobroff, is a deputy secretary at NMPED, though leadership of the department has been light on specifics and results for nearly two years.
Perhaps now that two judges have found NMPED in grievous malfeasance of students the governor and her administration will at last take students and families seriously.