By Rob Nikolewski
New Mexico Watchdog
Democrats on the Legislative Finance Committee on Thursday (Dec. 8th) gave a cautious thumbs-up on a $17 million early reading initiative that Republican Gov.Susana Martinez and Public Education Department secretary-designate Hanna Skandera announced the day before, aimed at boosting New Mexico’s laggard performance in public education.
The initiative calls for $11.5 million early reading interventions such as screening children who are struggling and $5.5 million for pre-kindergarten programs and kindergaren through third-grade programs including summer school. The initiative is tied to what’s called the “social promotion” bill that the Martinez administration has been pushing for since the new governor took office last January.
The social promotion bill would retain public school students from moving on from the third to the fourth grade if they cannot read at a proficient level. Some critics of the bill have questioned previous incarnations of the bill, wondering how it will be funded.
“I’m happy and surprised we’re getting the true details,” Sapien said. “Last year in the full session [of the state legislature] and then in the special session, it was touted as not needing any additional money. ‘This doesn’t need any new funding, all we do is stop advancing students after the third grade if they can’t read.’ The reality is that it’s more detailed than that. But I’m glad the governor is admitting that yes, it will cost us more money and you know what? Let’s commit to that.”
So will Sapien support the bill when and if it comes before the state Senate during the 30-day session?
Here’s his answer: