Governor Martinez’s most controversial cabinet appointee is leaving her post before the end of the month. Hanna Skandera told the Albuquerque Journal her departure has been in planning for some time, though she waited until the end of the school year to make it official. She will leave PED on June 20th. A replacement has not yet been named.
Martinez came to office promising “bold reform” on public education policy and appointed Skandera, who had never taught in a classroom, as the state’s PED secretary.
She faced an early uphill battle against Democrats in the state legislature who were skeptical of her plans to put more education money into the Public Education Department’s testing programs instead of the classroom. After failing to win legislative support for key components of their plan, Skandera enacted many of them by regulation.
But seven years into Martinez/Skandera “bold reform” those changes have made New Mexico public education worse, not better.
Her plans to assign letter grades to schools, implement a massive expansion of charter schools (although non-profit by law, many were run by for-profit companies or have come under criticism for paying huge salaries to private administrators or fiscal mismanagement), and add hundreds of hours of testing to students statewide, were all first tested in Florida where Skandera served as Florida governor and failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s education chief before joining Martinez in 2011.
Skandera also took flack for her role in “Chiefs for Change,” a consortium of conservative state education chiefs which “connected state education officials with [the non-profit’s] corporate donors, facilitating private meetings between state decision makers and company executives at the foundation’s annual meetings” (Washington Post).
Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers – NM, had this to say about the news of Skandera’s departure:
“On Governor Martinez and Secretary Skandera’s watch in New Mexico, our State slid from 37th to 49th in the nation in the quality of our public education, was subjected to relentless attacks on public schools in favor of charter and private schools, had to fight against voucher schemes raiding public school funding, fought mandatory flunking of our students based on standardized testing, was subjected to abusive levels of over-testing of our students, and faced the institution of the nation’s most punitive evaluation system which has contributed to historic shortages of educators and students studying to enter the field of education.”