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Governor Establishes New Office of Special Education

Posted May 26, 2023, 10:55 AM. Updated June 13, 2023, 4:49 PM.

Lujan Grisham signed the executive order at Lowell Elementary School, one of APS’s special education hubs.

Surrounded by students at Lowell Elementary School, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order on Thursday creating the Office of Special Education, a move that she said would elevate the needs of students with disabilities and help their families navigate the complex system currently in place.

“I’m not waiting one more minute to get the services and the supports and the education that every student in New Mexico needs,” the governor said. Her comments drew applause from audience members, many of whom have children in special education programs.

The Office of Special Education is the first of its kind in New Mexico and will operate within the state Public Education Department to ensure school districts are providing the best possible special education services that align with state and federal laws.

A national search is underway for a director of the new office.

Beyond creating the new office, the governor’s executive order also directs PED to:

  • Require special education professional development for a wider range of education professionals.
  • Better coordinate special education with the agency
  • More actively promote recruitment and retention of special education teachers and other positions that serve special education students.
  • Ensure comprehensive data collection, including on student disciplinary actions
  • Require state technical assistance to districts and schools on key special education issues, including appropriate disciplinary actions and behavior management
  • Transfer special education preschool to the Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

“This office creates an opportunity for collaboration between state agencies, districts, and families of students that we desperately need, and that the 50,000 New Mexico children in special education deserve,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Lawmakers earlier this year considered legislation that would have done much of what the executive order requires, but that legislation didn’t make it to the governor’s desk before the Legislature adjourned. Still, the governor said she hopes state lawmakers pass the legislation in the future so that the changes live beyond her tenure as governor.

“We’re going to keep working to get this into law,” Lujan Grisham said.

Dozens attended the signing ceremony at Lowell Elementary School, one of APS’s special education hubs.