SANTA FE (KRQE) — New Mexico's dropout problem is improving, but the state's still well behind the nation's leaders.
Public Education Department statistics from the class of 2012 show just a little more than 70 percent of students graduated from high school in four years.
Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, is pushing an idea he thinks will make a big difference.
Brandt's bill has two parts. One would provide school districts with an early warning system to help identify struggling students as early as the third grade.
The second part would take away driving privileges from students who are frequently absent from school or drop out altogether.
The proposal wouldn't apply to students who drop out to be home schooled, work full time to support their families, have an illness or get the parent and principal to sign off on a withdrawal from school.
But all other dropouts and habitual truants would have to go to a Motor Vehicle Division hearing to prove they're in compliance with the law or their driving privileges are suspended or revoked until they're 18.
"This is a way for parents, with the district, to work together to try to keep the student from being truant in school," Brandt said.
Brandt's law is modeled after a 2005 Indiana law that takes driving privileges away from dropouts.
Gov. Bill Richardson made a similar proposal in 2008 that would delay the ability for a teen to get a driver's license or permit if they weren't proficient or had attendance below 90 percent.
Richardson tried to execute that proposal without help from the Legislature, but it doesn't appear as though the change was ever made.
New Mexico Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera says she backs Brandt's bill calling it a good next step to bolster graduation rates.
The bill hasn't gotten much traction in the Legislature so far this session. It's waiting for a hearing in the Senate's Education Committee.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.