New Mexico’s 2019 School Finance Reforms and The Essential Building Blocks for State School Finance
This article discusses the state of New Mexico’s school finance reforms during the 2019 legislative session and the relationship of those reforms to The Essential Building Blocks for State School Finance. The Essential Building Blocks is a 2018 report written by the author for the Learning Policy Institute that provides essential, research-based guidance to policymakers and advocates who write school finance laws to ensure more equitable school finance policies. The legislative reforms follow a state court victory in 2019 by plaintiff families and school districts suing the state on school finance and educational opportunity claims in Martínez v. State of New Mexico and Yazzie v. State of New Mexico. The author examines how the Legislature’s efforts measure up against the guidance articulated in The Essential Building Blocks. The author also interviews the Gallup-McKinley County Schools superintendent to assess the reforms and how they relate to realizing educational opportunity for all students as described in The Essential Building Blocks. The author concludes that while the state made some progress in its school finance reforms, the absence of a strategic, holistic plan grounded in equity will likely leave the state’s underserved children without the educational opportunities they need to succeed. If the state’s leadership can match its strong principles and goals of equity and multiculturalism with a formidable school finance system that appropriately invests in its students and educators as reflected in The Essential Building Blocks, the state will be poised to realize equity and opportunity for all students.