State bill looks to reduce truancy by restricting licenses

Posted at: 02/18/2013 6:28 PM
Updated at: 02/18/2013 9:58 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

We're about halfway through New Mexico's 60 day legislative session, and lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce our high school dropout rate; it's improving but it's still horrible.

One bill getting a lot of discussion is aimed at hitting wannabe dropouts where it hurts the most - in their wallets. That's where they keep their driver’s licenses.

The bill would require school districts to track those wannabe at-risk students through truancy records and failing grades, and then work with the Motor Vehicle Division to deny their licenses or revoke them.

Sen. Craig Brandt, a Rio Rancho Republican, is the bill's sponsor. His reason for sponsoring it was following him right down the hall at the State Capitol on Monday.

"For me it's real right now because I have a son who's turning 16 here in a couple of months," Brandt said with his son Josh standing just a few feet away. "It's one of the things he thinks about most of all, getting the driver’s license. He asks me all the time ‘When are we gonna get me in driving school?’"

"It's pretty important to get that license," said Josh Brandt, a Cleveland High School student serving as a Senate page Monday. "I mean if you've got a girlfriend, you've got to take her out on a date, so you've got to drive for that."

Brandt's bill would make it harder for kids to drop out, financial hardship or illness being the main excuses. It would require students and parents to sit down for an exit interview with the principal, where all of the drawbacks to dropping out would be spelled out.

New Mexico's latest four year graduation rate has improved from 65 percent to 70 percent - which means the dropout rate is still about 30 percent. We've got a long way to go.