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New Mexico
New Mexico

April 13, 2007

Senate Bill 561: Changes the Compulsory Attendance Law

Senator Cynthia Nava, chair of the Senate Education Committee

The law currently allows for a 17-year-old to be excused from school if he will be gainfully employed or is engaged in an alternative form of education. The law also provides for a child under 8 to be excused from attendance. However, both of these exceptions will be eliminated by these bills, and the compulsory attendance age will be from 5 to 18 years, period.

1/25/2007Referred to Senate Education Committee; Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee; Referred to Senate Finance-Education Committee
2/7/2007Passed Senate Education Committee
2/16/2007Passed Senate Judiciary Committee
2/22/2007Passed the Senate
3/7/2007House Education Committee Hearing
3/12/2007Passed the House
3/14/2007Senate concurred in House Amendments
4/3/2007Signed into law

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA opposes this bill.

Action Requested:
None requested at this time.


  • According to the 2005 NAEP test scores, children from states that have low compulsory attendance ages (5-6) did not score any higher than children from the other states, and in some subjects their average was actually lower.
  • Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child’s formal education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic performance later.
  • Lowering the compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents who are in the best position to determine when their child’s formal education should begin.
  • A report published February 6, 2007 by the Goldwater Institute examines Stanford 9 test scores and finds Arizona kindergarten programs initially improve learning but have no measurable impact on reading, math, or language arts test scores by fifth grade.
  • The data show that students in schools with all-day kindergarten programs have statistically significant higher 3rd-grade test scores, but there is no impact on 5th-grade scores. This finding is consistent with previous research. Forcing children into school early delivers short-term benefits at best.
  • Raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, the two states with the highest high school completion rates, Maryland at 94.5% and North Dakota at 94.7%, compel attendance only to age 16. The state with the lowest completion rate (Oregon: 75.4%) compels attendance to age 18. (Figures are three year averages, 1996 through 1998.)
  • Twenty-nine states only require attendance to age 16. Older children unwilling to learn can cause classroom disruptions and even violence, making learning harder for their classmates who truly want to learn.
  • It would restrict parents’ freedom to decide if their 17-year-old is ready for college or the workforce. (Some 17-year-olds who are not academically inclined benefit more from valuable work experience than from being forced to sit in a classroom.
  • Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age would be an inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. When California raised the age of compulsory attendance, unwilling students were so disruptive that new schools had to be built just to handle them and their behavior problems, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our Issues Library page on compulsory attendance age legislation.

 Other Resources

January-30-2007—New Mexico—Calls Needed to Stop Expansion of State Control Over Homeschools

February-16-2007—New Mexico—Calls Needed to Stop Expansion of State Control of Our Homeschools

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History

March-6-2007—New Mexico—Call to Stop Expansion of State Control Over Homeschools