Martínez v. State of New Mexico and Multicultural Education: Divide and Conquer? We Don’t Think So!

  • E. Diane Torres-Velásquez The University of New Mexico
  • Christine E. Sleeter California State University, Monterey Bay
  • Augustine F. Romero We Schools


Martínez v. State of New Mexico (2014) is a school finance and equity lawsuit built on the promises of the state constitution. The plaintiffs are 51 parents and their children across seven regions of the state (Torres-Velásquez, 2017). In its decision (Martínez, 2018), the Court determined that the state’s public education system was unconstitutional for not providing a sufficient education to the state’s “at-risk” students: students from economically disadvantaged homes, Native American students, English language learners, and students with disabilities. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on all 174 Martínez allegations and determined that legislators would create remedies and locate funding. From the earliest draft, the Martínez complaint maintained that the state was not following New Mexico’s Bilingual Multicultural Education Act (1973), Indian Education Act (2006) or Hispanic Education Act (2010). The plaintiffs wanted full implementation of these laws. A legislator asked, “If you had to pick one, bilingual education or multicultural education, which would you say is most important?” Both are central to student well-being and success. In order to address the question of priority—both being central to student success—we highlight core components of multicultural education for PreK-12 public education. We tie policy and practice recommendations back to the trial and to the Court decision and we suggest that a multicultural education curriculum is an integral part of a promising education for New Mexico’s students.