A New Mexico state senator clarified remarks she made last month that New Mexico educators "don't know how to teach kids (who come) from poverty."
State Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-17) was speaking at an educators' conference in Florida last month. Her comments were provided to ABC-7 via cell phone video.
"Those two sentences were taken completely out of context," Stewart said, when reached by phone Monday.
The senator clarified that she was talking about why scores are so low in the state of New Mexico.
"We have difficulty meeting proficiency levels because we have children that come to school that just need more time," Stewart said. "They need more intervention, they need more help."
Jo Galván, a spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools, agreed.
“She’s pointing out something that is important," Galván said, pointing out that many students living in poverty encounter certain challenges.
"We do have a lot of kids who aren’t ready to come to school, and being poor adds another layer of difficulty for kids," Galván said.
Stewart also was recorded saying that students living in poverty have "street-fighting skills."
"They've got a lot of skills," Stewart said. "They're just not academic skills."
"I’m not sure what she was referencing," Galván said.
However, Galván did acknowledge that there is extremely poverty in the district.
"It’s difficult to be in a poor family," Galván said. "Everybody has to make decisions. Do you give your kid lunch money or do you try to save it for dinner at home? Those are life decisions, and it’s not easy being poor... we have a lot of poor people in this area.”
Governor Susana Martinez also responded to the recorded video, releasing a statement to ABC-7.
"I believe all children can learn and that's why I support helping struggling students reach high standards, rather than embracing the ideology that lowers expectations and accepts failure," Martinez said.
Stewart is a retired educator who served in the New Mexico House of Representatives for almost twenty years before becoming a state senator in 2015.