New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, left, with Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera.

DALLAS - New Mexico is facing another lawsuit over its school funding formula, the third filed this year.

Three districts, including Santa Fe Public Schools in the state capital, filed the latest suit Oct. 9 in state District Court in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Public Schools joined with the Gallup-McKinley County School District and the Moriarty-Edgewood School District as plaintiffs.

The suit calls for Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera to create a budget proposal and financial plan to meet student funding needs before the legislative session begins in mid-January.

New Mexico devotes less than 45% of its $6.2 billion budget to education, according to the suit that also cites poor proficiency rates in math, reading and science.

About 67% of the state's public school children are designated as low-income and are eligible for free and reduced lunch, the suit says. In Santa Fe, that figure is close to 70%.

Current per-pupil funding levels, based on a formula known as the State Equalization Guarantee, are barely past 2008 levels at about $4,005 per student, according to the lawsuit.

In April, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Albuquerque Public Schools and other districts over the funding formula. That suit noted that New Mexico's poverty rate is the second highest in the nation but that the state has failed to account for that in its school funding.

Another lawsuit, State v. Martinez, was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. That suit asserts that New Mexico's underfunding of public education and its school rating system violates the state's education clause, due process, and equal protection. The state's education funding formula, the plaintiffs allege, fails to allocate sufficient supplemental funds for areas were the needs are greatest for at-risk and special needs students.

State District Court Judge Sarah Singleton heard opening arguments in the MALDEF case on Oct. 10 and said she would resume hearing the case in two weeks.

New Mexico carries a triple-A general obligation rating from Moody's Investors Service and AA-plus from Standard & Poor's. Outlooks are stable.

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