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New Mexico Union Votes "No Confidence" in State's Ed. Secretary

A political organization must identify diverse ways to express its contempt or dislike for people and proposals it finds contemptible or not likable. The Albuquerque Teachers Federation has settled on one well-established way of expressing disapproval with a "no confidence" vote in New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, Hailey Heinz of the Albuquerque Journal first reported on May 9.

A "no confidence" vote by teachers unions is a trusty weapon in the arsenal of education politics, as recent and easily-located examples from California, Ohio, and Rhode Island demonstrate. But you'll notice that those votes deal with district superintendents who have annoyed local collective bargaining units beyond their endurance. A "no confidence" vote directed at a state official moves the needle a little more.

As I touched on in a previous article, Skandera at a Council of Chief State School Officers meeting in Washington in March indicated her reluctance to lobby for more federal funding unless state education officials could provide sufficient data to support their programs. That sentiment may not sound particularly explosive, but such a stress on data can have bad associations for teachers unions.

Heinz reported that the resolution attached to the unanimous "no confidence" vote lists a dozen grievances with Skandera, including her planned teacher evaluation system that relies on what the union believes is an inaccurate model, and her decision to lay off state education department employees. It also serves as an attack on state leadership's education proposals.

Skandera, who was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in 2011, previously served as former Florida governor Jeb Bush's deputy education secretary, and was an assistant to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Like the school assessment system Bush created in Florida, the school grading system Martinez introduced in January uses A-F grades to measure school performance. Skandera's 3rd-grade retention plan that would end social promotion at that grade level, meanwhile, is also championed by Bush's Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.

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