New Mexico lawmakers advance Native American education bills

February 1, 2022 GMT
FILE - Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, to deliver along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent. Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills' passage. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)
FILE - Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, to deliver along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent. Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills' passage. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)
FILE - Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, to deliver along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent. Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills' passage. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)
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FILE - Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, to deliver along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent. Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills' passage. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)
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FILE - Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, to deliver along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent. Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills' passage. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Legislature is considering three bills aimed at improving education for Native American students that would increase funding to tribal education departments and libraries and allow more tribal control over how funds are spent.

Members of the House Education Committee approved the three measures Monday, largely along party lines with Democratic majorities ensuring the bills’ passage.

The tribal school funding bill would grant greater authority to tribal governments over how to spend money already allocated by state officials to support Native American education. Instead of flowing through grants from the New Mexico Public Education Department, most of the money would go directly to tribal education departments.

Supporters of the funding measures have said the state is late in taking aggressive efforts to address Indigenous education that were highlighted in an unresolved 2018 state court ruling.

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Tribal leaders representing the vast majority of the nearly two dozen Native American tribes in the state spoke in support of all three measures.

Critics of the measure to give tribal education officials more clout in allocating money raised questions about how the success of the educational spending would be tracked.

But the sponsor of the bills, Democratic Rep. Derrick Lente, said that mutual agreements between individual tribes and state officials would specify those metrics, not the Legislature.

The school funding bill passed the committee 9-3, and the library bill passed 10-2.

The third bill heard by the committee Monday would add around $30 million in funding to teacher training programs to address the severe underrepresentation of Native Americans in the teaching profession. The education committee approved the measure in an 8-4 vote.

All three bills head to the House Appropriation and Finance Committee for further consideration.

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This story has been corrected to show the school funding bill passed 9-3 and the library bill passed 10-2.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.