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New Mexico bill would disqualify dropouts above 22 from earning diploma

At 16 years old, Lucia Ramirez dropped out of Chaparral High School and never returned.

“I want to give my boys an example,” Ramirez told ABC-7. “To let them know that you can do it.”

Ten years later, the young mother enrolled at the New America School in Las Cruces to get a second chance at earning her diploma free of charge.

“No matter what age you are, you can still go back to school,” Ramirez said.

However, if the New Mexico State Legislature passes Senate Bill 1, dropouts above the age of 22 would be disqualified from earning their high school diploma.

“If we’re not educating the parents, how can we stop that cycle of poverty?” asked Margarita Porter, the principal of the charter school, where 55 percent of the students are older than 22.

Porter told ABC-7 she’s seen her students graduate with their diplomas attend college, enlist in the military or enroll in a trade program.

“There’s story after story of how we are educating our adults so that they can educate their children,” Porter said.

Sen. William Soules of Las Cruces (D) is one of the sponsors of the bill.

“Senate Bill 1 has huge increases in funding for schools across the state, which really starts to address our education needs,” Soules said.

If the bill passes, dropouts older than 22 would be limited to a G.E.D.

“I have a student who sold her TV to attempt her G.E.D. and she couldn’t pass it,” Porter said. “One, it costs money and two, it’s very difficult.”

Ramirez attempted to earn her G.E.D, but she said the schedule prevented her from being with her two young boys.

Like all of the existing older students, she is grandfathered into the program. However, if the bill passes, older dropouts will no longer be able to earn their diploma.

“I have babies to take care of,” Ramirez said. “I honestly don’t know what I would do.”

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