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Hanna Skandera nomination stalls in committee
Question of the Day
But nothing prevents Skandera from remaining as the top administrator in the agency that oversees New Mexico’s public schools. Had the 42-member Senate rejected her nomination, Skandera would have been forced to immediately leave her post.
After the committee vote, Skandera told reporters she had no plans to resign and described it as a “day of politics.”
“The disappointment is we’ve allowed politics to rule at the end of the day versus our kids,” she said. “I think I’ve demonstrated from start to finish that I’m committed to delivering for our kids, and nothing has changed.”
Skandera has drawn opposition from many Democrats and educational unions because of the governor’s school policies, including merit pay for teachers, a system for assigning grades of A-to-F for schools, a teacher evaluation system heavily based on student performance on standardized tests and a plan to hold back third-graders who can’t read proficiently.
Skandera’s critics also contend she doesn’t meet a constitutional requirement for the department secretary to be a “qualified, experienced educator.”
Skandera hasn’t worked as a public school teacher or administrator. She was a deputy commissioner of education in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. She also was a senior policy adviser to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings during President George W. Bush’s administration.
It’s rare for lawmakers to turn down a governor’s appointee for a high-level job. The Senate last rejected a department cabinet secretary in 1997, when GOP Gov. Gary Johnson was in office.
There are six Democrats and four Republicans on the committee. Only one Democrat spoke before a series of votes were taken.
Sen. Clemente Sanchez, a Grants Democrat, expressed frustration with the “fighting back and forth” over Skandera’s confirmation. The panel spent about 10 hours considering the nomination last year, but it never voted.
Sanchez complained that the state “has put the handcuffs on our education system and our teachers.” He objected to the teacher-evaluation system developed by the department.
“It’s time for our education system to move on,” he said.
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