I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Teachers As Political Targets?

Teachers in New Mexico have had enough of reformy "leaders" like Hanna Skandera:
The Senate Rules Committee will have to meet for a third time to vote on whether to recommend Hanna Skandera as the [New Mexico] state’s secretary of education following a long day of testimony from her supporters and opponents Saturday — the second day of the process.

[...]
 
Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said this is the first time in his five years in the Legislature in which a confirmation hearing has lasted three days. “That is not very common,” he said. 
Although Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Skandera as her secretary of education late in 2010, the Senate Rules Committee did not schedule a confirmation hearing for her in either 2011 or 2012. State law does not prohibit Skandera from serving as a secretary-designate, however. 
Saturday’s session attracted about 150 people to the Senate chamber. About 55 people — primarily teachers — spoke against confirming Skandera, while about 35 — including fellow state Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, principals and superintendents — spoke in favor of her confirmation. A half-dozen speakers voiced their views without clarifying whether they support or oppose Skandera. 
Opponents cited Skandera’s implementation of a new A-F school-grading system that is, in their view, imperfect and demoralizing; an educator evaluation system that relies heavily on student test scores; conflict of interest pertaining to her ties to big business and private educational institutions; and the fact that the state constitution requires the secretary of education to be a “qualified, experienced educator.” 
“I want a general who has been a sergeant,” one teacher said, arguing that Skandera’s lack of experience as a classroom teacher disqualifies her from understanding teachers’ needs and challenges. 
Albuquerque educator Marian Wiggins echoed that thought: “Were she [Skandera] to apply for the job of teacher or principal, she could not get hired. 
Albuquerque Public Schools’ educational diagnostician, Harold Gershenson, said, “We have so many problems working with PED. … I’d rather be working with MVD!” 
Others, including Pecos Superintendent Fred Trujillo and Roswell Superintendent Tom Burris, said in their support of Skandera that she is pushing for accountability, high standards among educators and strong professional development opportunities to help improve academic achievement. 
Bernalillo Superintendent Allan Tapia said, “I am tired of the trend toward mediocrity. … Hanna Skandera has brought new ideas to the state. It has been said that Hanna Skandera does not know New Mexico. Maybe. Maybe not. But she knows kids. And she cares about those kids. [emphasis mine]
Hey, I "care" about puppies - but that doesn't make me a veterinarian. "Caring" is not the same as "competency."
Some speakers at Saturday’s hearing, including a former Florida teacher, said that state’s policies are a mess and that New Mexico should not follow Florida’s lead. Others cited Florida’s high ranking in a recent Education Week Quality Report as reason enough to follow its lead. [emphasis mine]
It really doesn't matter if Skandera's ideas are "new" or if she "cares about kids"; what matters is whether or not her policies will work. And the sad truth is, as more folks take a hard look at what happened in Florida under Skandera's mentor, Jeb! Bush, it's clear that what she's selling isn't going to help New Mexico's students at all; in fact, it will probably make things worse.

She certainly hasn't made things better for the teachers:
During his presentation, Corwin said the confirmation hearing should not be about Skandera’s reform efforts but about her conduct. He noted that Skandera ordered Public Eduation Department staff to compile a list of union teachers for Martinez’s top political adviser, Jay McCleskey. He also said Skandera misdirected state general obligation bond money to reward top-ranking schools in her A-F grading plan. 
I'm sorry: did you just say Skandera had her state-paid staff compile lists of non-union teachers for a political operation!?

Yep:
State Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera and her top deputies were aware the department was creating a list of school email addresses of nonunion teachers for the governor’s political adviser.
That could be important, because the office of state Attorney General Gary King is investigating whether public resources were unlawfully used to create the list. The Governmental Conduct Act prohibits use of employee time and other public assets for political purposes.
The Public Education Department provided the list to political adviser Jay McCleskey, who has said it wasn’t what he wanted and that he didn’t use it.
The PED has said it merely responded to a request from McCleskey for publicly available teacher lists. Gov. Susana Martinez has also said she doesn’t believe the Governmental Conduct Act was violated.
Newly released internal PED emails show Skandera and top aides were aware of the work being done to compile the list of nonunion teacher email addresses.
Department spokesman Larry Behrens said Friday that Skandera knew of McCleskey’s request for teacher lists and was aware PED was responding.
“It is normal for the secretary to be aware of our responses to requests” for public records, Behrens said.
The department created a list of school email addresses for teachers statewide, then used that to help make the list of email addresses for only nonunion teachers.
Behrens, using a personal email account, sent both lists to McCleskey in May. He also sent the lists to campaign or other personal email addresses for Skandera and three other administration officials. Skandera then forwarded the lists to a campaign email address for Martinez.
Administration officials have said the email address for the governor was no longer active and that Martinez didn’t see the Skandera email until after news media reports about it.
Oh, sure, of course they didn't see it until after the media reported the story! Why are you teachers so paranoid? I'm sure the political advisor to the governor had nothing but the best of intentions for your emails! Which are, of course, public records and most likely accessible by the administration for any reason they see fit...

I mean, it's not like the political arm of the Martinez administration or the ACTING Secretary of Education have a vested interest in monitoring non-unionized teachers to make sure they don't agitate for unionization. Where would you get that crazy idea? From the anti-union tirades of Jeb! Bush?

I'm sure those were... uh... "taken out of context"... or something...

It's nice to see teachers around the country waking up and fighting back against this anti-educator, anti-union, pro-provatization agenda. First Chicago, then Seattle, then Texas, and now New Mexico: it's enough to give even the reformyest corporate shill a headache.

Got any Motrin?

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