Martinez’s “bold change” on education doesn’t deliver; Can King seize opportunity?

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In this weekend’s Santa Fe New Mexican, Veteran New Mexico political reporter Milan Simonich penned a column comparing the education record of Susana Martinez with Democratic challenger Gary King’s new education plan.


The whole piece is worth a read, but a few pieces are worth extra note.

For starters, Susana Martinez isn’t running on her own record, even on her keystone issue of education.  Instead she’s still running against Bill Richardson, four years after she ran against him in her first race even though he wasn’t on the ballot then either:

The incumbent, Republican Susana Martinez, has been busy pummeling her predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson, who left office in December 2010. Martinez’s publicist last week sent out statements saying the Democratic candidate for governor, Gary King, wants to adopt Richardson’s “failed policies” on education.

Speaking of failings, math and reading scores of New Mexico students declined this year on standardized tests. The results are squarely on Martinez’s record, no matter how often she tries to make this election about Richardson.


So why isn’t Martinez running on the “bold change” she has brought to New Mexico’s education system? Likely because they’ve brought more headaches, mistakes and mismanagement than education success.

Paul Aguilar, one of Skandera’s deputies, once said publicly that New Mexico’s formula for grading schools was so complicated that perhaps only five people in the state could understand it. This did not inspire confidence in the state’s 830 school principals.

Soon after, Skandera’s Public Education Department elevated the grade of New Futures High School in Albuquerque to a C. It received bonus points for offering sports programs.

But New Futures High School had no athletic teams. Its student body consisted of pregnant girls and teen parents trying to obtain a diploma. If the state Public Education Department knew so little about a small school with a rifle-shot mission, how many other school rankings has it botched?

Skandera, never a teacher or a school principal, has spent her term focused on the imitation initiatives that Martinez wants. Many have been controversial.

For instance, Skandera allowed a Virginia company to receive a seven-figure contract to run an online charter school for students in Farmington. Her critics said this broke a law prohibiting public charter schools from awarding contracts to private companies. Skandera said she merely exercised the power of her office for kids’ sake.

For more, read Milan’s full piece and add your comments online.

Ringside Seat is a column about New Mexico’s people, politics and news. Look for it in Monday’s print edition. Follow the Ringside Seat blog Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080