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Gov. holds hope for social promotion bill

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez’s office says it’s not ready to give up on legislation to require retention of underprepared third-graders along with new early intervention programs.

The proposal has failed to pass committees in both the House and Senate, but Martinez’s office is looking to one of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, an educator from Las Cruces, to “blast” the bill out of committee with a vote on the House floor.

Without the procedural move to circumvent the House Education Committee, which tabled the proposal last week, the bill probably would be considered dead for the 2013 legislative session.

“It’s unfortunate that it has come to this point,” Garcia said. “If we need to blast it out, I need to talk to more people and come up with a consensus. … I think I have the votes here in the House, but when it goes over into the Senate, it’s something else.”

The push in the House to revive the legislation, which would end so-called social promotion of struggling third-graders, comes after the Senate Education Committee voted Saturday to table the bill, closing off a path for the measure to advance through Senate action.

The sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, has said she would not try to circumvent that committee and will instead look to reintroduce the bill next year.

It’s the third year in a row that the governor has pushed to create tougher rules to mandate retention of third-graders who can not adequately read. Separate versions of the proposal last year won a vote on both the House and Senate floors, but the bill failed to move forward after each chamber failed to act on the version initiated on the opposite side of the Roundhouse.

Governor’s spokesman Enrique Knell said Martinez and her administration still see several potential paths to get the legislation passed this session.

“We’ll continue to fight for legislation that will truly ensure that our kids can read by the third grade, and we’re optimistic that this will once again be an issue that Republicans and Democrats alike in the Legislature will support,” Knell said in a statement.

The proposal was tabled in the House Education Committee after the chairwoman, Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the $13.5 million the Governor’s Office had proposed to fund the new intervention and retention programs was insufficient.

Stewart is backing a bill that requests nearly $68 million in new education funding to pay for improved remediation programs with no new retention rules.
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal