Governor, parents urge House to pass House Bill 285, Special Education Act, today
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan on Wednesday urged the House to vote on and pass House Bill 285, the Special Education Act. The bill has been awaiting a vote on the House floor for nearly a week.
“New Mexico families are tired of hearing what the special education system can’t do for their children, not to mention the courts, which have already mandated that we act now – not tomorrow – to get special education students the resources they need,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Parents are tired of watching their children suffer, tired of watching educators not getting the support they need in the classroom, tired of seeing their child isolated in the back corner of an ‘inclusion’ classroom without integration or instruction. The system is broken, and I stand with the thousands of New Mexico families who are counting on us to take the first critical steps toward repairing it by passing the Special Education Act this session – but we are quickly running out of time. Further study is not going to solve this problem, and the time for the Legislature to act is now.”
Special education students in New Mexico have historically been vastly underfunded and underserved, resulting in chronically low academic achievement and 2018’s Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. This legislation will help level the playing field for special education students, making sure that they, like every other student, are supported from cradle to career.
“As the disruptions of the pandemic recede, addressing learning loss and behavioral health challenges among students with disabilities may require additional investments in expanded programs, services, and personnel,” the Legislative Education Study Committee writes in a 2023 annual report. “These may especially be a consideration as the state continues to grapple with the legal ramifications of upholding the constitutional rights of students with disabilities, as cited in the Martinez-Yazzie education sufficiency lawsuit.”
Tarra Main, a single mom to two children with disabilities in Rio Rancho, has struggled to access quality special education for her son since he was expelled from his childcare program at age three for behaviors related to his autism, ADHD, and developmental delay. Now 10 years old, he continues to struggle to access the supports he needs in school, exacerbated by teachers and providers who also aren’t getting what they need to navigate the challenges stemming from his disabilities.
“The bottom line is that special education doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work in New Mexico,” said Tarra. “I think it comes down to staff not having enough training, resources, and compensation. I’ve struggled for years to get my son the support he needs to be successful in school, but the districts simply don’t understand what needs to be done or aren’t allocating sufficient resources. Advocating for my son is like having another full-time job, and it shouldn’t be this way for families of children with special needs.
HB 285 would elevate special education within New Mexico state government, create more accountability within the system, and empower it to give students, teachers, and districts the support they need to provide the quality education our children deserve. I ask the Legislature, for the sake of my son and other students like him, to get this legislation across the finish line.”
“From the perspective of an educator, administrator and the parent of an autistic seventh grader, I am excited to see this bill turned into a law so that we can get the best support to our special education students. Personally, I wish that this had existed when my child was 3 or 4, as the impact of a streamlined, supportive process would have been life-changing,” said Public Education Department Secretary Arsenio Romero. “As it stands, families are having to bear a tremendous burden to advocate for their students – not because teachers, administrators and educators don’t want to do their best to serve students, but because they do not have the organizational support they need to be successful. This bill changes that. We need it now. These students, families and educators shouldn’t have to wait another year for the state to support them.”
“The supports offered in HB 285 are critical to the success of our Native students with learning differences. We need better avenues for students and families to get the support they need to make the most of their experience in our schools,” said Picuris Pueblo Governor Craig Quanchello. “They have floundered for too long with insufficient policy and that is reflected in their test scores. The time to act is now.”