Social Justice Lunchbox Speakers use the Constitution to advance racial equity

October 27, 2017 - Beth Gillia

Gail Evans and Preston Sanchez

Attorneys Gail Evans and Preston Sanchez of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty ( spoke during a Social Justice Lunchbox event on October 18th about how they successfully used the New Mexico Constitution to extend Workers Compensation benefits to poorly paid agricultural workers who toil under grueling conditions. 

They also described their recent lawsuit alleging that the Public Education Department and Legislature are violating the Constitution by failing to provide a uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of all of New Mexico’s children, especially Native American students and English Language Learners. 

Significant underfunding (by $336 million), failure to provide culturally relevant education, and inadequate infrastructure place these students at the highest risk of academic failure, said Sanchez. 

One poignant example of the insufficiency was requiring Native American students to complete the mandatory on-line PARCC test on outdated computers with wholly inadequate internet connections so that they were unable to complete the testing without extended delays and disruptions, likely rendering the test results unreliable.

Law student and retired teacher Lionel Betsch stated, “One standout aspect to me was the lack of knowledge of the "expert" ​witnesses (regarding Native American issues) brought in by the other side, showing that the opposition faced by Gail and Preston was poorly informed yet claiming they knew best for the kids in question.”

The Social Justice Lunchbox series is designed to introduce and explore a broad range of Social Justice issues. It is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help improve outcomes for New Mexico’s most vulnerable children and families, and open to UNM Law Students as well as members of the public

The next program will be presented on Health Harming Legal Needs/Social Determinants of Health by Dr. Andy Hsi, on November 8, 2017 at noon in room 2405. Hsi is a professor in the UNM Department of Pediatrics and director of the Institute for Resilience, Health and Justice.

Snacks and water are provided and attendees are invited to bring their lunch.