Aztec schools join lawsuit challenging authority of state education department

The lawsuit was filed in October 2020

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Aztec Municipal School District Board of Education on Aug. 16 voted during a special board meeting to join the Gallup-McKinley County Schools Board of Education lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department.
  • The complaint was filed in Oct. 6, 2020, is attempting to limit measures implemented by the state education department during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The board also approved a resolution stating the district supports local decision-making authority of school boards.

FARMINGTON — The Aztec school board is joining a lawsuit in which 18 New Mexico school boards challenge the authority of state public education department in favor of local control.

The Aztec Municipal School District Board of Education on Aug. 16 voted during a special board meeting to join the Gallup-McKinley County Schools Board of Education lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department, according to a recording of the meeting.  

Some of the school boards listed as plaintiffs include Fort Sumner, Grady, Logan, Clayton, Eunice and the Mission Achievement and Success Charter School, according to court records.

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The complaint, filed on Oct. 6, 2020, is attempting to limit measures implemented by the state education department during the COVID-19 pandemic including dictating COVID-19 testing procedures and keeping employees on payroll regardless if they are working or not, according to the Associated Press.

The allegations levied in the lawsuit include that “guidance” from the state may have overstepped the powers of the public health orders or violate the state’s constitution.

Kevin Summers

Aztec Superintendent Kevin Summers told The Daily Times he sees the main argument of the lawsuit as trying to figure out whether decision making power rests with a board of education or the state.

“The primary argument of joining that (lawsuit) is to really figure out who should be making these local decisions, whether it's us, us meaning the board, or PED," Summers said.

Summers argued state education decisions are not one-size-fits-all, as what might work for Albuquerque might not work for Aztec or Taos, which has a school district similar in size to Aztec schools.

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The superintendent also stated that even though the district joined the lawsuit, district officials will comply with policies and mandates from the state.

“Now it puts an onus on us as the administrators within the district to be good stewards of mandates and policies that are provided to us and execute them as provided,” Summers said.

The board also approved a resolution stating the district supports the local decision-making authority of school boards.

It also opposes “executive action,” which limits the elected members of a school board in addressing needs in a district, according to a copy of the resolution.

Summers described the resolution as a symbolic expression of the board’s opinion.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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