Farmington — Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed a bill to change the way transportation boundary agreements are made between school districts.
The bill was written in response to a disagreement last year between Central Consolidated School District and Gallup-McKinley County Schools over bus transportation. Gallup-McKinley was transporting students out of the Central Consolidated School District to Gallup-McKinley schools. CCSD officials objected and Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera told the districts to find a solution that complied with existing rules and regulations.
Senate Bill 320 would have amended state law relating to school bus routes. The amendment would have required districts with 75 percent or more Native American students to consult with tribal leaders on issues related to transportation services provided by the district, including bus transportation boundary disputes.
Martinez vetoed the bill on March 12 and in an executive message to state senators, the governor wrote that if enacted, the "race-specific provisions" may violate the constitutions of New Mexico and the United States.
"Only four school districts in the entire state would fall under this new law creating separate standards and procedures for some school districts based on their racial composition," Martinez wrote.
The governor also wrote that the legislation had "technical deficiencies" that would create confusion and uncertainty for many of the state's school districts.
The bill would have applied to a few districts while leaving a majority without guidance when handling transportation disputes, she wrote.
The bill was sponsored by state Sen. George Munoz, D-Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties, and was approved by members of the state House and Senate in February.
The dispute began after Gallup-McKinley started providing bus transportation for a number of students who reside in Naschitti but enrolled in schools in Tohatchi.
Naschitti is located in San Juan County and within CCSD's boundaries and Tohatchi is in McKinley County and within the boundaries of Gallup-McKinley.
A New Mexico Public Education Department rule states that transportation boundary agreements are prohibited when students want to attend schools out of district as a matter of choice, which appeared to be the case in the dispute between Gallup-McKinley and CCSD.