- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Public Education Hanna Skandera “absolutely” would welcome a visit to any New Mexico school by newly confirmed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a spokesman for Skandera said.

Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Public Education Department, said Skandera would gladly host a visit from DeVos to visit any school or charter school in New Mexico - one of the poorest states in the nation.

But the state’s largest school district says its superintendent would have to check with parents and the school board first if DeVos sought to come to Albuquerque.

“If asked (Superintendent Raquel Reedy) would engage the Board of Education, schools, students, families and entire community before responding,” Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta told The Associated Press.

Several dozen protesters gathered outside a southwest Washington, D.C., public school Friday where DeVos paid her first visit as education secretary. It was a bid to mend fences with educators after a bruising confirmation battle.

DeVos has previously worked to promote charter schools and school voucher programs, which her critics say would hurt public schools. She was confirmed for the job by the Senate on Tuesday by the narrowest possible margin, after two Republicans opposed her.

The U.S. Department of Education has not announced any visits outside of Washington, D.C.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she’d welcome an “honest dialogue” from DeVos on policy differences and a visit to a Santa Fe public school.

“I believe we must respect the office,” Garcia said. “Obviously, if the community and parents feel a need to show their concerns, it’s certainly their prerogative.”

Betty Patterson, president of the National Education Association in New Mexico, said the union would gladly provide DeVos with a list of New Mexico schools “for un-rehearsed visits” should she come to the state.

“She would see hard-working educators helping students succeed despite the lack of educational resources needed for our students,” Patterson said.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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