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Editorial: Two education bills promise to deliver for NM students

Two bipartisan bills on education made it through a House committee last week and are now headed to the House Education Committee for consideration.

For the sake of New Mexico students we hope lawmakers ignore the naysayers and defenders of the status quo and send them to Gov. Susana Martinez for her signature.

One – House Bill 22 – would require high schools to text the parents of students who fall behind or are facing a coming test. House Bill 23, meanwhile, would require students to apply to college, for an internship, to the military or for a job before graduating. The bills are sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.

These are commonsense, bipartisan measures that should enjoy wide support because they have produced results where they have been tried.

According to the Fiscal Impact Report prepared on the texting bill, a 2017 study by Columbia University found weekly text-message alerts to parents about missing assignments, grades and class absences reduced student course failures by 38 percent, increased class attendance by 17 percent and improved district retention rates by 2 percentage points.

And at least one study found the mere act of applying and being accepted to college – remember they are not required to actually enroll – may change the way students perceive their qualifications as well as the value of college itself, according to that bill’s fiscal impact report.

“Preparing students for postsecondary education is increasingly important as two-thirds of jobs created by 2022 will require some form of postsecondary education,” the analysis states.

Unfortunately teachers unions and an association of school boards oppose the texting bill, arguing it will create inequalities because some parents may not have smartphones and because school districts may not have enough money to carry out the text messaging.

The inequalities argument is silly. By that rationale, school districts shouldn’t have computers because some students may not have computers in their homes. And while it may be true that some districts may not have the resources needed to carry out the proposed requirement, it would be worth getting the ball rolling on this program and figuring out how to cover the cost for those school districts that don’t currently have the capability.

At its core, this bill is about providing parents with another tool to help their children succeed and a way to boost parental involvement in children’s education.

As for the legislation requiring students to apply to college, the military, an internship or for a job, Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, questions whether it’s fair to keep students from graduating simply on the grounds of having failed to fill out an application, assuming they’d met every other requirement.

We’d argue that the benefit far outweighs any perceived inconvenience for students. This bill is aimed at nudging students to think about what they’ll do after high school and to take steps to make that happen.

Together these bills promise to help students before graduation and after. Lawmakers who want them to succeed in school and life will vote yes on both.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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