In 1880, more than 60% of New Mexico’s population over the age of 10 could not read or write. In those days, there were only 162 private and church-run schools, with a student attendance of 3,150. There was no public school system.
Attempts to establish a public school system failed to pass the territorial legislature in 1876, 1878, and again in 1880. In 1878, the legislature passed a statute authorizing the Jesuits to own unlimited land for educational institutions without taxation. The U.S. Congress unanimously annulled the act.
In the fall of 1886, Professor Elliot Whipple, superintendent of the Ramona Indian School at Santa Fe, joined with Principal F.E. Whittmore and Professor C.E. Hodgin, both of Albuquerque Academy, to call for the formation of an Education Association of New Mexico teachers. On November 26, 1886, during the Thanksgiving break, a group of mostly Santa Fe educators met and adopted a resolution calling for a convention to establish the “Territorial Education Association” (TEA).
The first convention of the TEA was assembled on December 28, 1886. After statehood, the TEA became the New Mexico Education Association (NMEA) which later changed its name to the National Education Association of New Mexico (NEA-NM).
After our active participation in the creation of the state’s public schools, NEA-NM remains a force in shaping and improving public education in New Mexico.