For the start of the school year, Searchlight New Mexico is publishing interviews with four leading education activists. The conversations span the gamut from language immersion to teacher shortages, child trauma and what it takes to finally reform New Mexico’s schools.

Because the crisis in education goes to the heart of practically every problem we face in New Mexico. A now 14-month-old ruling by a state district judge declared the school system so flawed as to be unconstitutional. The demand for change has never been greater, as illustrated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s abrupt firing of Education Secretary Karen Trujillo after a mere six months on the job.

The education leaders interviewed here have long wrestled with these issues and have outspoken thoughts about the path forward. Their interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

  • Learning experiences: Emma Jones
    From an early age, Emma Jones became an advocate for herself while navigating Albuquerque Public Schools as a homeless student. Her experiences growing up led her to 13 years of community organizing to improve school engagement and identify problems in New Mexico’s education landscape. Jones, 32, is the lead organizer for Learning Alliance New Mexico,… Read more: Learning experiences: Emma Jones
  • Learning experiences: Regis Pecos
    Regis Pecos has served as both lieutenant governor and governor of Cochiti Pueblo and was a member of the tribal council for more than 30 years.
  • Learning experiences: Betsy Cahill
    Betsy Cahill knows the problems of teacher retention firsthand. She worked as a preschool teacher for more than 17 years before becoming an associate professor of early childhood education at New Mexico State University in 1994. A native of New Jersey, she attended Kent State University in Ohio and ended up remaining there afterward. She… Read more: Learning experiences: Betsy Cahill
  • Learning experiences: Julia Bergen
    It was just two days into the school year, and Julia Bergen already was dealing with two cases of student homelessness. Then she heard about an influx of Guatemalan migrant children just released from federal detention, who had unexpectedly shown up in a Santa Fe school. Bergen is executive director of Communities In Schools of… Read more: Learning experiences: Julia Bergen

Sara Solovitch is the editor of Searchlight New Mexico. She supervised its launch in January 2018 with the Child Well-Being Project, an investigation into the plight of children and families in New Mexico....