March 18, 2015

House third-grade retention bill stalls in Senate committee


A House bill to hold students back if they are not proficient in reading by the third-grade stalled in a Senate committee on Wednesday night.


The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4 to 1 to table HB 41, sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.

Youngblood told the committee in her opening statement that “Retention is a last and final safety net.”

Terri Cole, president of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce,spoke in favor of the measure and echoed Youngblood’s statement that student retention is a last resort. Only four others voiced opposition to the legislation.

Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, who has sponsored similar retention bills since 2013 told Youngblood she could relate to the tough questioning Youngblood received.

“I know what you’re going through,” Kernan said.

Kernan continued that while she supports retention she was concerned about wording in the bill that ties proficiency to test scores. She said she would be more comfortable with retention that is based on input from teachers and parents.

“I do not believe you can retain a student based on a test score,” Kernan told Youngblood.

Kernan was not in the committee room when the bill came to a vote.

Democrats who spoke said they agree with the provisions for intervention in the legislation but that they opposed the mandatory aspect of holding students back.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said she was aware of student reading deficiencies.

“We do not teach children how to read at the level that they can and should,” Stewart said. But, she said, when lawmakers mandate retention, they “take it all away from the parents and teachers.”

It is yet another year that the legislation, a priority of Gov. Susana Martinez since she was elected, stalled before getting Martinez’s signature.

Since the bill was tabled, it is highly unlikely the bill will make it to the Senate floor before the legislative session ends on Saturday at noon.