On April 5, 2019, the governor of New Mexico signed a bill allocating up to $100,000 to train public school teachers in Ilchi Lee’s Brain Education method. These funds will be implemented in the new fiscal year in July 2019 to train teachers at five public schools.
The bill was championed by house representatives Linda Trujillo and Christine Trujillo with support from state senators Nancy Rodriguez and Linda Lopez.
Left to right: New Mexico State Representatives Christine Trujillo and Linda Trujillo and New Mexico State Senators Linda Lopez and Nancy Rodriguez
A five-step process of brain training for self-management, Brain Education had already been tested in New Mexico in a three-month pilot program in 2013 with seventy Zuni Pueblo middle school students led by local Brain Education instructors with the IBREA Foundation. After the program, the school reported marked improvements in academic and social behavior, as well as increased attendance. A Brain Education pilot project was also run at the Santa Fe Juvenile Probation Day Reporting program by instructors from Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi in 2015, and in 2018, Body & Brain ran a demonstration project during the spring semester at three schools chosen by the New Mexico Department of Public Education. Afterward, one teacher, Jessica Forbes, said, “I hope the program continues in the district and teachers continue to use the activities and strategies because it helps with classroom culture and team building as well as improve student achievement and performance.” So far, more than sixty Santa Fe public school teachers have already been trained to use Brain Education in their classrooms.
Zuni Pueblo middle school students practicing Brain Education exercises.
Further evidence of Brain Education’s efficacy came from documented results in schools in New York City, El Salvador, South Korea, and Liberia, where it helped to improve concentration, academic performance, stress levels, emotion management, and relationships in students and teachers. It was recognized by the government of El Salvador in September 2018 for bringing a culture of peace to violence-ridden schools there, and Brain Education days and weeks have been declared in different U.S. cities and states. The most recent Brain Education Day was declared by the New Mexico House of Representatives itself on February 27, 2017.
New Mexico House of Representatives
In spite of the evidence for the marked improvements Brain Education has brought to schools and communities, the road to being awarded this budget was not short. Brain Education was first introduced in 2012 by State Senator Linda Lopez and then again in to the Legislative Education Study Committee in 2013. Funding bills for Brain Education teacher training were proposed in 2014 and again in 2015, but were not passed at that time. However, proponents of Brain Education persisted with conviction in its benefits.
When Ilchi Lee heard the budget bill had been passed, he sent a message to those who had worked on it saying, “I congratulate you with all my sincere heart. Because I know what kind of mindset you focused with, it’s even more touching, and I feel a thrill of exhilaration in my heart.”
New Mexico has prided itself on finding innovative education solutions, despite its ongoing challenges. The state has consistently been ranked next to last in education by the annual Quality Counts report of the national Education Week magazine and was even ruled by a state judge that it was “violating the constitutional rights of ‘at-risk students’ by failing to provide them with a sufficient education,” according to the Albuquerque Journal. One of reasons attributed to the state’s low performance is a 29 percent poverty rate among the state’s children, one of the nation’s highest.
This year’s Quality Counts report, however, showed small gains in the number of children enrolled in early childhood education programs and in its high school graduation rate. To multiply these gains and continue New Mexico’s tradition of innovation, the state’s new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and its congress increased the state education budget by 16 percent ($447 million) this year. The new budget will fund higher salaries, more days in school, and new programs such as Brain Education.
The new changes introduced for the coming year have made many educators optimistic according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Farmington Municipal Schools Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said in response, “New Mexico is at a tipping point, and all of these opportunities will turn that tipping point into balance, and that will pay off for kids in the classroom.” The general sentiment was summed up by one seventh-grade math teacher at Kirtland Middle School, Cherylnn Lee, who said this year has a different feeling than years past: “That’s what everyone is feeling—that there is hope.”