Gov. Susana Martinez’s third-grade retention bill passed the House of
Representatives on Wednesday, despite the heart-felt objections of
The bill, House Bill 69, will mandate that third graders who don’t
test as proficient in reading be held back rather than moved on to
The bill took away almost all parental rights to decide what is in the best interest of their child.
Concerns were raised by numerous representatives during the
three-plus-hour-long debate, including Ray Begaye (D-San Juan), who
said the bill’s state-mandated flunking of third graders was oblivious
to issues surrounding Native American students in New Mexico, and
antithetical to American Indian approaches to helping struggling kids.
The bill, Begaye said, “goes against the principal of the belief of
native people, that a community makes a child whole. Where everyone
comes together. It will make the child think he’s a failure.”
Begaye also noted that the Indian Education Act “ensures” parent
participation in decisions effecting a child’s education, which would
seem to say a state can’t decide on its own whether to hold a student
back or not.
Rep. James Rogers Magdalena (D-Bernalillo) expressed similar concerns.
If the Public Education Department was sensitive to Native American
issues, Magdalena wondered, then why has there been no one named by
Skandera to head the New Mexico Indian Education Division?
One of the most passionate speakers was Rep. Mimi Stewart
(D-Albuquerque), who brought up numerous studies which have
demonstrated third-grade retention is detrimental to students.
“Researched evidence demonstrates retention doesn’t improve
achievement,” Stewart said. “A student who’s retained has better
chance of dropping out.”
“Retention hurts children,” she said. “That’s the poison pill in this bill.”
Not for enough members of the house. Though almost all of those who
spoke up during the debate were opposed to the bill, it passed the
Stewart said the bill is backed by “people that don’t like public
schools and want to see them fail. Far-right groups don’t want to see
us paying taxes to fund public schools, because it’s expensive. I
think it’s that drumbeat people are listening to.”