Connect with:
Wednesday / April 24.
HomeQuick HitsBill reducing graduation requirements passes first House committee

Bill reducing graduation requirements passes first House committee

A bill that would change New Mexico’s high school graduation requirements and reduce the number of credits needed for a diploma passed its first committee this week.

House Bill 126, passed on a 8-2 vote by the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, would make a number of changes supporters say gives school districts more flexibility in determining what courses students need to complete to receive a diploma.

But people opposed to the bill pointed out that some of the changes could have damaging unintended consequences.

The bill would remove Algebra II and two semesters of foreign language as graduation requirements. Given that the University of New Mexico requires those courses for admission, people who spoke against the bill said it would limit options for some students.

“By removing these courses from the requirements for a diploma we will be putting students at risk of not being accepted into our state’s flagship university which currently require both,” said Daniel Macy, NewMexicoKidsCAN s external affairs manager. 

“Since the courses are no longer required, districts may choose to stop offering these courses to all students, which will prevent college bound students from having access to the courses they need to reach their dreams.”

Mandi Torrez, New Mexico’s teacher of the year for 2020, said moving Career and Technical Education and foreign languages to electives is “a step backwards, and we simply don’t understand why.”

Torrez, who currently serves as Education Reform Director for Think New Mexico, also said the removing foreign language and Algebra II requirements mean that New Mexico students could potentially graduate ineligible to attend 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship public universities.

State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat, spoke out strongly against the proposed changes, especially the dropping of Algebra II as a graduation requirement. Giving school districts flexibility sounds good in theory, but “if you happen to get saddled with a less than adequate superintendent or unskilled board, all of a sudden they’re going to take the easy way out for educating people.”

Lundstrom said the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit grew out of just such a failure of school districts to provide a rigorous education. She said a “lack of leadership” is to blame for these failures.

“If we just turn this over and not require things like Algebra II and SAT exams, I think we’re dumbing down our students, and I’d hate to see that.”