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Sine Die another day

Education funding grows in state budget


Education proved to be a flashpoint for debate in the 2024 30-day New Mexico legislative session.

Conflicts about priorities, local control, funding and multilingual education marked debate as lawmakers delivered on a patchwork of education proposals through the $10.2 billion budget.

The state’s final education budget remained mostly the same throughout the process. 

It includes:

  • $49 million for literacy, career technical education and community school programs
  • $14 million in early literacy support
  • $55 million for culturally relevant and bilingual materials
  • $62.7 million for 2 percent salary increases, bringing all school personnel up to $15 per hour
  • $43 million to expand early childhood care
  • $750,000 to support adult literacy programs
  • $2 million for attendance programs

Education spending increased by just over 6 percent this year.

The Legislature also voted to change graduation requirements for the first time in 17 years, removing some requirements such as Algebra II, the aptitude test and a requirement that each student take an Advanced Placement, honors, dual credit or distance learning class.

Despite conflicts in funding proposals between the executive budget and the Legislative Finance Committee, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham obtained the $30 million of her requested funding for a literacy center.

“It says that New Mexico is bold,” Lujan Grisham said in a press conference after sine die. “We’re a state that was made to lead.”

Local control

A Republican-backed budget amendment from Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena) that disallowed the New Mexico Public Education Department from funding any initiative that compelled school districts to operate on 180 school days gained the support of 17 Democrats.

The amendment is included in the final version of the budget that the governor must still review.

Lawmakers told Source New Mexico after the vote that they were concerned about local control and staying faithful to constituents. There was also concern for a bill that passed in 2023 that increased the number of mandatory instruction hours per week but allowed individual school districts to decide how to break down those hours during the school year.

Democrats who supported the amendment said children would get more value out of better education programs than spending more days at school.

“I hope we can move past arguments about four or five days and think about innovative education,” said Rep. Tara Jaramillo (D-Socorro) after the initial vote earlier in the session.

Other lawmakers were concerned about forcing small, rural schools to have to spend more on meals, fuel and utilities.

The governor said the amendment was something she would “look at very carefully.” While Lujan Grisham did not offer a definitive answer about whether she would line-item veto it, she said 180 school days is something she’d continue to pursue.

“(The amendment) is in direct conflict with what I think ought to be happening in New Mexico’s public education system,” Lujan Grisham said.

Multilingual and multicultural education

House Bill 134, the tribal education trust fund that would have allocated $50 million directly to tribes to build capacity for more multilingual, culturally relevant and supportive education died in the final hours of the legislative session.

Bill sponsor Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo) pulled the bill when he learned of several amendments waiting to be presented on the Senate floor. Disagreements between tribes stalled the bill, despite commanding bipartisan wins in both the House and Senate.

The move came after Lente presented an amendment on the House floor that cleared up concerns from the Navajo Nation government about the make-up of a task force that would have drawn up a funding model.

“This all came up very suddenly and, frankly, it’s a disappointment,” said George Hardeen, a spokesman for Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren’s office. “This trust fund would have been very, very beneficial, especially for Navajo kids.”

Lente also pulled the bill last session because of similar concerns about the funding model from tribes.

Hardeen said the Navajo Nation wanted to help take the lead to bring the bill back next session, but Lente said he was unsure if he’d bring the bill back.

Lente said some of the Senate amendments went against commitments the original bill made, and chose to pull the bill to protect the integrity of the tribes involved.

“I don’t believe that it’s in anyone’s best interest, especially the tribes, to have a public display or discourse of disagreement for everyone else to witness,” Lente said at the House Democrats’ press conference after the session adjourned. “That’s the kind of discussion that happened behind closed doors and amongst those sovereign leaders.”

Another education proposal that aimed to address mandates from the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, House Bill 39, also failed to move. It received one committee hearing where it passed early in the session.

The bill would have built the capacity to build bilingual programming and certification programs in public colleges, universities and tribal colleges. Bill sponsor Rep. Yanira Gurrola (D-Albuquerque) said she will be working with the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee in the interim to fine-tune the bill.

“It was good to present this bill because it opened up the conversation,” Gurrola said. “It was a bit difficult in a session that was so short. But we achieved opening doors, it achieved making this something to take seriously, so I have hope that we’re going to achieve something with this.”

Concerns about the amount of items that would be funded and the large appropriation of more than $27 million made it difficult to push through, she said, but Gurrola plans to work with lawmakers to find the best way to fund these programs.

“I was very clear that these programs aren’t pilots,” Gurrola, a bilingual educator herself, said in an interview in Spanish. “I am a product of these programs. These are programs that are already there, we’re just going to support them.”


In addition to the governor’s literacy center, thousands of children from first to fifth grade may have a chance to attend a six-week literacy boot camp next summer. It is part of the governor’s plans to boost literacy rates through structured literacy programs.

The boot camp would then continue as an after-school program. There are currently requests for proposals out on the idea, said Senate Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque).

Structured literacy teaches students to decode words in a systematic way to make complex information easier to understand. 

New Mexico ranks 50th in literacy with 79 percent of fourth grade students reading below grade level, according to the children’s literacy nonprofit Reading is Fundamental.

The governor also received all her requested funds for adult literacy programs at public colleges and universities. There will be $750,000 going toward that proposal.

“The sad issue is that New Mexico has waited a little too long to robustly take the science of reading and make it universal,” Lujan Grisham said when she unveiled her literacy plans at the beginning of the session. “Most of the educators in this room have been navigating it on their own for so long.”

Career technical education, workforce development

Early in the session, members of both the House and Senate Education committees declared career technical education a high priority.

Lawmakers said that while there’s a lot of work to be done, the Legislature took an “important first step” to build a strong workforce in New Mexico.

“When the governor talked about all the dollars that are going into infrastructure…we need people who are going to do the work to make that happen,” said Lt. Gov. Howie Morales at the governor’s post-session press conference. “And our commitment to and the work for career technical education and our collaborating with higher ed and our K-12 systems is tremendous.”

House Bill 5 also passed the Legislature, which would create a workforce training and apprenticeship fund. It would appropriate $8 million total for the creation of the fund to support and create approved training programs.

The new graduation requirements signed by Lujan Grisham also allow electives in career technical education.

Lawmakers praised the investments in career technical education and workforce development at the end of the session.

“There are going to be workers,” Sen. Michael Padilla (D-Albuquerque) said, praising the apprenticeship training trust fund. “(It’s) going to create training programs for decades, because it’s a trust fund, and to create those workers that New Mexico needs so badly.”

Education Funding, NM Legislature