Congress green-lights NM plan to further tap the land grant fund for public education

By: - December 23, 2022 3:24 pm
A school bus rounds the corner in Albuquerque

More money for public education in New Mexico is rounding the corner after Congress on Friday approved the will of N.M. voters, who chose in November to pull more from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for schools. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM)

A few lines in the 4,126-page measure Congress sent to President Biden’s desk for signature Friday will mean hundreds of millions more in funding for New Mexico’s public school students each year. 

U.S. House approves $1.7 trillion funding package and sends it to Biden

Voters in N.M. overwhelmingly approved pulling an additional 1.25% from the state’s multi-billion dollar Land Grant Permanent Fund for education each year. Because the fund was set up by Congress when New Mexico became a state, the will of the voters in 2022 still required a congressional sign-off.

The lengthy bill had finally cleared both chambers on Friday and is expected to be signed by Biden.

In the next fiscal year in New Mexico, over $200 million will come out of a pool of money fed monthly by revenue from oil, gas and mineral extraction on state lands. 

Over half of the new money is destined for the state’s burgeoning early childhood education system as it recruits staff and works to reach all corners of the state, providing free or low-cost child care and pre-kindergarten schooling. 

“When we improve our education and child care system, we also make our state a better place to raise a family, to start or expand a business, to find a good-paying job, and to hire the best and brightest employees,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a written statement earlier this month as Congress went back and forth over the spending bill. 


The rest of the fresh funding will go to K-12 public education, beefing up instruction for students who are at-risk, making the school year longer and paying teachers better.

Advocates say infusing public education with much-needed resources will go a long way toward putting New Mexico into compliance with a court order to provide equitable education to all of the state’s students, including those who are Indigenous, come from families with low incomes, have disabilities or are learning English. 

Those students have historically not received the quality of education they have a right to under the New Mexico Constitution, according to the judge’s ruling in the Yazzie-Martinez case.

The effort to further tap the fund for public schools in New Mexico spanned years. With Biden’s approval, it will finally cross the finish line.

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Marisa Demarco
Marisa Demarco

Marisa Demarco is an Albuquerque-based journalist and lifelong New Mexican whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent almost two decades as a reporter, producer and newsroom leader, co-founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She began a career in radio full-time at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health and criminal legal reform for much of the last seven years. During the pandemic, she was also the executive producer for “Your NM Gov” and “No More Normal,” shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice.