Rectifying Grad Requirements

Students could choose more required high school courses if governor approves bill after unanimous Senate approval

House Bill 171 would allow students to pick more of their courses in core subjects.

A bill reforming high school graduation requirements unanimously passed the state Senate on Wednesday, with the Senate rejecting two proposed amendments to the bill.

If House Bill 171 receives Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s stamp of approval—bill sponsor President Pro Tempore Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, noted the governor showed support for during the session—students will have a higher level of flexibility in choosing the courses that fulfill their graduation requirements, beginning with the ninth grade classes of the 2025-2026 school year.

“We haven’t really looked at high school graduation in almost 20 years,” Stewart said. “There’s been shifting workforce needs, and we have a real desire to bring in career and technical education into everyday lives of students in our high schools. They want it, their parents want it and the districts want it.”

The number of units required to graduate, 24, would not change under the measure, but most notably, HB171 would eliminate Algebra 2 as a requirement to graduate. Students would be allowed to substitute the class, usually taken by juniors, with financial literacy, work-based learning or career technical education courses, known as CTE courses. Those courses, Stewart explained, incorporate a typical required subject with practical applications, such as “construction mathematics,” intended for students interested in working construction jobs.

Stewart also noted that all students would be guaranteed access to financial literacy learning through one required, year-long course that covers government, economics and personal finance, in addition to standalone financial literacy classes to replace advanced math courses.

Additionally, each local school board or governing body of a charter school would be given the power to choose up to two units for local graduation requirements.

“It gives the district flexibility to require courses that are appropriate for that district, for that community, without requiring it for everyone in the state,” said Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces.

Sen. Martin Hickey, D-Albuquerque, however, took issue with financial literacy only being required within a class blended with civics and economics. He proposed an amendment to the bill that would require students take a standalone, one-semester financial literacy course.

“All of the things that need to be learned,” Hickey said, " trying to cram all of that into a year-long course with government and economics, I think, is not going to be sufficient with the skills that are needed today.”

Sen. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, voiced his agreement with Hickey, noting that despite all schools in New Mexico offering financial literacy courses, only about 11% of students take the class.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said the amendment would decrease flexibility for students.

“This takes away another elective,” Brandt said “If you think that’s okay to take away another elective from our students, fine. If you don’t, fine. But, we can leave that to local control, they can change that themselves.”

Soules agreed with Brandt, saying the amendment worried him as a high school teacher because every additional requirement takes away a student’s opportunity for an elective course.

Both voted against the amendment, which failed on a 19-22 vote.

“My biggest concern…are the students who, because of this, will not be able to take a dual credit class that helps them towards their future, they may not be able to take an AP class, they may not be able to take band because they don’t have any additional electives, and these are the courses that keep kids in school,” Soules said. “Nobody is against students having financial literacy, we all think that is important. This is not needed, and it does put extra requirements on students.”

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, introduced another amendment that would require ethnic studies to be added to the graduation requirements.

In response to the amendment, Stewart said ethnic studies can be counted toward required social studies credits, as students can pick two out of the four required units among any history, ethnic studies, psychology, anthropology or sociology class.

The second amendment failed 5-33.

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