Our Blog

Poco Windy #8 CTE and Yazzie Martinez, Part 1

In another court case, the latest in a series of historic school finance lawsuits (some in New Mexico, others elsewhere), the findings have been strikingly similar. In New Mexico, it has most recently been Yazzie-Martinez v. State of New Mexico (2018), a somewhat unusual case where consolidation of two lawsuits occurred and joined not only by the immediate plaintiffs but by other well-known, off-reservation school districts like Gadsden and Rio Rancho. Yazzie joined the historic company - Serrano v. Priest (1971), San Antonio School District v. Rodriquez (1973), Zuni Public School District v. State of New Mexico (1998), Zuni Public School District v. State of New Mexico (2010), and now Yazzie-Martinez in 2018. The primary issue has been relatively the same whether it focuses on aid payments, capital outlay generation/distribution, impact aid distribution, or reliance on property tax as a primary school funding source. Invariably, the issue is money. Money matters in the education of children, particularly low-income children and educational quality should not depend on where students, particularly in the latest case, where Native American and Hispanic students live.

While CTE specifically has not been a high profile issue in the Yazzie-Martinez case, it certainly could have been. Affirmation of the Yazzie message by CTE educators, however, has been slowly emerging. CTE educators talk candidly today about how kids are dumped into, not counseled into, CTE classes. SPED kids, kids from troubled backgrounds, kids nobody else wants. Sadly, kids who become known as “throw-away kids.” CTE has become the dumping ground. Right before time-out rooms, in-school suspension (ISS), and finally, expulsion.

An October 30, 2019, column by New Mexico in Focus zeros in on the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit in New Mexico. Yazzie-Martinez - if you haven’t followed the lawsuit or the suit fine print. A December 2019 New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) report addresses CTE (pages 50–51) pointing to a historic opportunity and constitutional obligation “to make at-risk students college or career ready”….“with sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable students to be career-ready.” A page-turner.

Leadership on the issues raised by the lawsuit has been significant. A major leadership role played by Regis Pecos, a longtime Senior Policy Advisor to the New Mexico Speaker of the House who has long experience in such matters. A former Governor of the Pueblo of Cochiti, and longtime co-Director of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute. In a 2019 meeting with the Mescalero Apache Tribal leadership and educators, Pecos and his team mapped out a Tribal Education Blueprint. Pecos and Mescalero Tribal leaders asked - “what do we desire in this region for Apache children?” Mescalero children, like many other children today, go back and forth between Tribal and public schools, in this case, primarily between Mescalero, Ruidoso, and Tularosa. The numbers are significant: Mescalero has 620 students, Tularosa 400 Apache students, and Ruidoso 700 Apache students. This movement pattern may not be unusual elsewhere in Tribal Country, New Mexico.

In this region, Region 9 is providing leadership on Yazzie–Martinez issues by offering technical assistance to LEAs on the creation and operation of Equity Councils required by the court’s decision. Look at your local school district’s website to see its participation. Next week, we will look at potential CTE solutions addressing Yazzie-Martinez in part 2. This is the home of Region IX CTE. Thanks for dropping by.

By Dr. James Miller