Proposed education requirement change moves forward

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SANTA FE, N.M. – House Bill 126 sailed through the House Education Committee Wednesday morning with a unanimous vote from state lawmakers – its second win in just two weeks.

The bipartisan proposal is hoping to address New Mexico’s poor graduation rates by making the graduation requirements a little more flexible.

Democrat Rep. G. Andres Romero and Republican Rep. Ryan Lane want to reduce the total number of credits needed from 24 to 22. They also want to get rid of the Algebra 2 requirement and streamline some social studies, physical education and health mandates.

HB 126 also allows districts to customize some of the requirements to better fit their students. That bill is now headed to the full House for a vote.

Now, there are three curriculum proposals, and one of them is getting closer to the finish line. 

The three proposals each cover very different subjects, but they all appear to be focused on making sure New Mexico students have a better understanding of the real world before they graduate.

“I think both sides of the aisle are looking at what’s best for our kids and our communities, and I think that’s a really exciting place,” said Whitney Holland, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.  

Holland believes House Bills 43, 111, and 279 are rightfully shifting lawmaker’s attention to New Mexico’s older students.

“We’re modernizing kind of what we’re teaching our kids, which is great, it’s important,” said Holland. 

House Bill 43

One of those modern topics is sexual assault. HB 43 would require high schoolers to learn about affirmative consent, or the idea that people must verbally agree to take part in sexual activities.

It also wants students to understand silence — or lack of protest — does not imply consent. 

“I think one of the concerns is, it’s going to be a sex-ed bill, and that’s not the intention of any of the community groups, or any of the allies. It’s really just looking at relationships and teaching like safe practices, teaching that you can say no,” Holland said. 

HB 43 sailed through a full House vote Monday — with several republicans supporting the proposal.

House Bill 111

It could be a different story for HB 111. 

“I would say it’s proactive,” said Holland.  

The Democratic proposal would require schools to teach seventh through twelve graders about the Holocaust and other historical genocides, potentially including events in New Mexico history.

It’s not clear if any schools are no longer teaching the subject, but Holland believes recent efforts in other states — to restrict social studies curriculum — sent a warning to New Mexico’s lawmakers.

“Just in case there’s ever a time where those conversations do come up, we have the safety got built out and saying that we value these conversations, and we’re not going to say no,” said Holland.  

House Bill 279

Meanwhile, House Republicans are focused on money.

HB 279 would require high school students to complete a personal finance class before graduating.

“It’s gonna be like balancing a checkbook, or navigating credit cards or applying for loans, or even I hope it would be something like financial aid,” said Hollands. 

The idea has already faced debate though. Lawmakers attempted to add a similar requirement to a bill overhauling all graduation requirements.

Holland believes it failed because the subject is already part of math standards.

“We’re already doing these things, and so there’s not really a need to mandate that, it’s already happening,” she said.  

Holland says a key component for all three bills is training time for teachers, and making sure these requirements aren’t just tacked on to their to-do lists.

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies Bill is expected to land in its first committee Thursday.

The Personal Finance Bill is scheduled for a committee next week.

Track HB 126 during the legislative session.

Track HB 43 during the legislative session.

Track HB 111 during the legislative session.

Track HB 279 during the legislative session.