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FARMINGTON — The Legislative Education Study Committee is endorsing legislation supported by Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal that would allow retired police officers to work as school security guards without losing their cost of living adjustments.

The committee met this week in Santa Fe. The meeting can be viewed online at nmlegis.gov.

Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, expressed support for this legislation Friday morning.

She said school security has become an important issue.

She said retired police officers working as school security could help rural communities that have longer response times.

Committee chairwoman Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, opposed endorsing the bill.

“I just think it’s a misuse of our retirement system to allow people to get a full retirement at the age of 48 or 55 and then to go back and get paid for another job,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Rep. David Roch, R-Logan, said in theory he agreed with Stewart but he heard in meetings, including one in Aztec, that the loss of cost of living adjustments presented a “barrier to people who are eminently qualified and who could fill a job that we absolutely need filled. And our job then is to remove the barrier.”

He said the small barrier could have a big impact in terms of school security.

Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said 89 school districts have asked for the legislation, which is aimed to improve school safety.

"This is what our parents will come to us and say 'this is what we pay taxes for. This is what we want in our schools,'" she said.

Bill would cap ages of students

There is currently no cap on how old a high school student can be, except for within the special education programs. The state’s public school code guarantees free public education to school-age residents who have not received high school diplomas or its equivalent.

In fiscal year 2018, more than 770 students age 22 to 70 attended public schools in New Mexico, costing the state approximately $6.2 million, according to information provided to the Legislative Education Study Committee on Friday.

The committee is endorsing a bill that would create an age limit for high school students. The bill would also give $2 million for adult basic education.

A similar bill was addressed during the 2017 legislative session, but did not pass.

Committee endorses reducing required emergency drills

The committee also sponsored a drill reducing the number of emergency drills required for schools each year.

Currently, schools are required to do 13 emergency drills and all but two of those drills must be fire drills.

The proposed legislation would reduce that number to four drills. Two of the drills would be shelter in place drills with preparation for active shooter situations. Active shooter preparation has not been required in the past. The other two drills would be evacuation drills, which could be fire drills.

Legislators across the state can begin pre-filing legislation for the 2019 legislative session starting Monday.

Legislation can be pre-filed through Jan. 11 and can be viewed on nmlegis.gov.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652

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