By Representative Derrick Lente, (D-Sandia Pueblo)
Rep. Derrick Lente
Although New Mexico has the fourth largest Native American population in the country, services for Native students remain significantly low. Across the state, Native students continue to fall behind and lack the necessary resources to succeed.
Last year, the legislature passed my bill to ensure Native students have the support to succeed with bipartisan support, but Governor Martinez vetoed it.
When Native students have the opportunity to succeed, New Mexico benefits. So, what are we doing about it? This legislative session, I am bringing my bill to the legislature again. House Bill 151 requires a needs assessment to determine the services public school districts must provide Native American students to improve graduation rates and college readiness and ultimately close the achievement gap.
House Bill 151 will encourage access to much needed federal funds for our cash strapped schools that serve Native students. It also calls for vital services and resources and allow for the hiring and training of new teachers, after-school tutoring, and instruction support. As New Mexico faces one of the most promising fiscal outlooks of recent memory, it’s time our budget reflects our priorities, and that means investing in Native students’ success.
According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, more than 35,000 Native Americans students attend public schools across the state and their levels of proficiency in reading, math, and science are at alarming lows when compared to their non-Native counterparts. Native students in urban school districts not near tribal lands face incredible barriers.
The longer we wait, the more of a crisis this becomes for one of the most vulnerable populations in New Mexico.
Once again, we are asking the governor to support this legislation. We need innovative solutions to climb out of financial crisis and into economic prosperity. These programs and services help close the achievement gap for our Native students, instilling confidence in their abilities to learn and achieve, and better preparing them to obtain an education after high school.
This legislation will create the opportunity for more federal funds for our cash-strapped school districts. We can’t afford to allow politics to drive a policy agenda any longer; it will undoubtedly fail our parents, teachers, students, and economy.
New Mexico needs bold, smart investments in our kids, our families, and our workforce. Our kids need HB 151.