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Committee approves two bipartisan bills on education


House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A bipartisan proposal moving through the House would require high school students in New Mexico to apply to college, for a job or to the military before graduating.

And a companion measure would direct high schools to text the parents of students who fall behind or face a coming test.

The proposals – co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, a Republican, and Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, both of Albuquerque – advanced through their first House committee Thursday. They still must clear the House Education Committee before they can reach the floor.

The sponsors said both bills are backed by research showing that they would boost the number of students going to college and help student performance.

“It’s something that works very well at a minimal cost,” Gentry said of the texting proposal.

That measure, House Bill 22, calls for parents of high school students to be notified by text if their child falls below a certain grade point average or has a test coming up.

Teachers unions and an association of school boards testified against the bill. They said it would create inequalities because some parents may not have smartphones and that school districts may not have enough money to carry out the text messaging.

Nonetheless, the proposal advanced out of the committee without a recommendation on whether it should be passed.

The second proposal, House Bill 23, would require students to apply to college, for an internship, to the military or for a job before graduating. They wouldn’t actually have to attend college or enter the military, just apply.

Ivey-Soto said it would force students to at least start the conversation about whether college – or another path after school – is right for them.

Rep. Miguel Garcia, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairman of the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants & Cultural Affairs Committee, said he supports the concept, in part, because Hispanic students of his generation weren’t encouraged to pursue college.

“A lot of Chicano youth in my generation lost out,” Garcia said.

Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, raised concerns about whether it was fair to keep students from graduating simply on the grounds of having failed to apply to college or for a job, assuming they’d met every other requirement.

But the committee agreed without opposition to move the bill forward with no recommendation.