Espinoza's bill passes committee

February 27, 2011 • Local News, News

A bill that stops third-graders from being promoted to the fourth grade if they do not read proficiently cleared the House Education Committee, Saturday. After three days of hearings, the Committee voted 10-1 to pass the measure, which will head to the House floor this week.

The substitute bipartisan bill combines two similar pieces of legislation, one introduced by local lawmaker Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, and sponsored by Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, and the other by Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Doña Ana.

“Both bills did the [auth] same thing,” Espinoza said in a phone interview from Santa Fe, “ and since it was two people—  one was a Democrat and one was Republican— we thought ‘let’s join forces for the betterment of the students.’”

The bill, now called the House Education Committee Substitute for House Bills 21 and 100, states that parents would no longer be allowed to sign a waiver that exempts third-graders from being held back if the student did not meet reading standards. However, a student can only be held back for the same grade twice.

“This is a huge victory for those who are trying to change the expectations in our schools,” Espinoza wrote in a press release. “Students who aren’t proficient in reading will get the help they need, but no longer will they be passed from grade-to-grade without the required skills.”

Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera supported the measure in a press conference earlier this week for halting the practice of “social promotion,” or promoting public school students to the next grade if they lack required basic skills.

The Public Education Department was not able to estimate the number of third-graders who would be held back, according to an earlier bill analysis prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee.

The LFC did note, however, that of the 25,000 third-graders in the state for school year 2009-2010, 42.6 percent scored below Proficient on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment. Sixteen percent of third-graders managed to scrape by as reading proficient, scoring at the lowest level.

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