Senator William “Bill” Soules: Commentary: Senator Cotter Gets it Wrong on School Fees

In his disingenuous letter to the editor that ran on Sunday, February 8 in the Las Cruces Sun News, Sen. Lee Cotter states that because I voted against Senate Bill 207 (SB 207), I do not support a free, public education, and that I support “illegal” collection of fees by public schools.  As anyone who knows me can attest, this characterization cannot be further from the truth.  Some clarity and truth-telling about this bill is clearly needed:  this legislation would prevent public schools from charging and collecting any fees for elective courses.  Since it provides no appropriation with it, SB207 would force schools to either stop offering all courses with fees, such as culinary, art, band, engineering, etc., or to take money away

State Senator Bill Soules
State Senator Bill Soules

from instruction in other non-elective courses to cover the increased costs.

Ideally, removing fees would be a good thing.   But the reality is that our public schools are underfunded in New Mexico.  That explains why the practice of collecting fees for participation in many elective courses has grown.   Elective courses help keep many students in school, rather than becoming drop-outs.  Eliminating these programs, as Sen. Cotter’s proposal would do, is unconscionable. Our state already struggles with high drop-out rates.  Let’s not make things worse.

Sen. Cotter’s claim that the fees are illegal is ludicrous.  The New Mexico Courts have already ruled that the collection of fees to cover supplies and materials for these courses is appropriate and legal.  The blanket statement that all of these fees are illegal is reckless, destructive, and political theatre.

I am offended when a legislator tries to smear my character and commitment to the students, schools, teachers, and parents with misinformation.  I would invite anyone to compare my voting record with Senator Cotter’s and judge for yourself how well public education is being served by your elected legislators.

I am happy to discuss education legislation with anyone.  My cell phone number is (575) 640-0409, my email is bill.soules@nmlegis.gov, and I am also available on Facebook and Twitter.