In computer programming loops are repetitive iterations of the same operation used to carry out specific tasks. The computer having no brain and no sense of monotony simply repeats the script ad infinitum until a particular condition is satisfied. The New Mexico legislature seems to be in some kind of incarnation of the loop phenomenon. We have been running the Skandera loop for going on five years now, over and over again and with the same result. It’s an interesting question to ask about people who keep repeating the same action, using the same information, producing the same result, but thinking the next time the result will be different.
Skandera, after five years has yet to be confirmed by the Legislature as New Mexico’s Secretary of Education. What’s up with this? Who is getting what out of it? Five years ago this individual was presented to fill a crucial position for which she has no professional credentials. Here we are entering her fifth year holding the job of Secretary of Education without legislative confirmation but being paid on the order of $125,000.00 a year. How do things like this happen? Well, how about political ambition and political agendas? Skandera came to New Mexico following the first gubernatorial election of Susana Martinez. It was noted at the time that Skandera was suggested by out-of-state donors to the Martinez campaign.
A professional political appointee, Skandera previously served former Florida governor Jeb Bush who fancied himself as a school reformer but who failed miserably at that task and only succeeded in alienating teachers. Skandera is a gift that keeps on giving who came to us courtesy of the current governor’s billionaire campaign contributors including, in her first run, $10,000 directly from the Koch boys and $1.3 million from the Republican Governor’s Association which itself was gifted with $1 million also from the Kochs.
Isn’t it ironic that Skandera could not be hired as a classroom teacher in a New Mexico public school? The New Mexico requirements for a teaching certificate at the elementary level are:
1. A Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
2. 30 to 60 semester hours in an Elementary Education program including student teaching.
3. 6 semester hours of credit in the teaching of reading if you entered college or university after August 1, 2001.
4. A minimum of 24 semester hours in one teaching field such as mathematics, language arts, reading, history, and so forth.
A starting teacher, having met the qualifications above makes on average $32,000/year. Skandera has not met these minimum qualifications and yet is paid 4 times what a qualified starting teacher is paid. Consider for a moment the inversion of values expressed in this distortion. Consider also how insulting and demoralizing it is to be evaluated by a political operative who is less qualified and less experienced than you are.
When I first wrote about this nomination nearly five years ago the issues were the same as today except that we now have a record of the disastrous consequences of Skandera’s tenure. That first article was in March 2011 and here we are in January 2015 with no resolution of this continuing travesty. Skandera’s damage to New Mexico’s public education from Gestapo-like raids on elementary schools to brazenly over-riding the publicly elected Public Education Commission, validating charter schools championed by rent-seeking political hacks, and a lot of time on the public stage around the country, indeed even internationally, are her only achievements. Her beating the drums for privatizing public education are all a matter of record. I said then and I’ll say again, “Approving Ms. Skandera’s appointment will be a step backward.” Since then Ms. Skandera and the governor have been thumbing their noses at the children, the public, educators, and legislators. What’s behind this?
For openers, public education is a soft target and there’s lots of money to be made in privatizing. Witness the many Republican governors across the country who are pursuing this same agenda. And, that isn’t the only issue, 3rd grade retention is also merely a convenient non-issue; a cudgel to pound on the public’s consciousness. The most important aspect of the entire 3rd grade retention business is to realize it has absolutely nothing to do with authentic teaching and learning. The ultimate pay-back is privatizing public education. Privatization is the holy grail of the relentless Right-Wing jihad against teachers and public schools nationally. Rupert Murdoch expresses his interest in public education by describing it as a $500 billion “opportunity”. The public needs to not forget it’s their tax money that created the public education system these sharks are salivating for.
Not to be discounted in this equation is Martinez having set her ambitions on national prominence and maybe even a place on the Republican presidential ticket, a fantasy that beggars the imagination. In this she is much like other deluded Republican wannabes who will do whatever it takes to be chosen. Since she has little else to brag about she has to win this Secretary of Education battle else she’ll be riding off into a sunset of well-deserved irrelevance like Rick Santorum. The stakes are high in this game and the children be damned.
The NM Senate has an obligation to the public, to teachers, and to school children to not punt this time but to act bravely, with integrity, and regard for the people and children of New Mexico. The New Mexico State Constitution is on their side as it clearly and unequivocally states, the Secretary of Education must be a, “qualified, experienced educator.” Skandera is neither – case closed.
End of loop.