In her State of the State address, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham laid out an ambitious agenda for New Mexico, with a significant focus on improving education. Addressing lawmakers at the New Mexico State Capitol, Lujan Grisham highlighted her administration’s past achievements and future plans for improving education in the state during the January 16 event that kicked off the 2024 legislative session.
Lujan Grisham proudly mentioned New Mexico’s unique position in the U.S. as the only state with a constitutional right to childcare and the requirement for free and nutritious school meals.
She emphasized the success of Structured Literacy implementation, pointing out recent data from the Public Education Department showing a four percentage point improvement in reading proficiency across the state. The governor highlighted the state’s focus on structured literacy as a contributing factor to the growth. New Mexico students across a wide range of demographics have seen an increase in literacy proficiency, the governor specifically highlighted a five percent increase among Native American students. This increase in Native American proficiency comes five years after a lawsuit forced the state to reckon with its failure to provide an “adequate” education for all students.
In her speech, the governor called for further investment in literacy, proposing a $30 million capital investment to build a statewide literacy institute, and another $30 million for free literacy summer programs across the state. The governor said these investments are meant to improve reading skills for 10,000 students needing to catch up to their grade level. Lujan Grisham stressed the importance of literacy, saying, “Every student, and frankly, every New Mexican, should be given the opportunity to learn to read to the best of their ability.”
Additionally, Lujan Grisham advocated for the expansion of the school year to 180-days and requested legislative funding to support this. This argument follows a push from her office and the Public Education Department to expand the actual days students are in school. She said that more quality instruction time is crucial for improving educational outcomes. “No student should be told that their progress isn’t a priority,” the governor said, emphasizing the state’s commitment to providing top-notch education for its youth. “It’s challenging, but it’s time we did the right thing,” Lujan Grisham said.
The governor also called for increased accountability in school districts. Lujan Grisham called on the legislature to approve $30 million to embed what she called “experts” in low-performing schools to identify challenges and develop immediate solutions that will improve student results.
The end of her speech marked the beginning of the 2024 legislative session; this year’s session will last 30 days, ending February 15.