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NEA Sues New Mexico Schools Chief Over Teacher Evaluations

The National Education Association is backing a lawsuit by its New Mexico chapter against state education secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, seeking to invalidate her agency's requirements for evaluating teachers.

NEA officials say that the state has violated local districts' purview in dictating aspects of the evaluation systems, particularly by requiring a certain portion to be based on growth in students' standardized-test scores.

The New Mexico Public Education Department made those changes through a rulemaking process in 2012 after lawmakers failed to pass legislation. Soon after, in 2013, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate sued unsuccessfully to prevent the rules from taking effect. At that time, a state judge ruled that the state had acted within its powers in writing the regulations.

Teachers' unions have also been unsuccessful in seeking alterations to the system. NEA New Mexico, for instance, supported legislation to minimize the weight of student test scores, but that measure was ultimately vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, last year.

The new lawsuit was filed in Santa Fe district court, and comes on the heels of another lawsuit from the union alleging that the state education department violated public records laws vis-a-vis information the union requested on teacher evaluation. 

A copy of the filing was not immediately available. The Associated Press reported that the lawsuit hinges on an alleged conflict between the regulations and other state laws governing personnel.

The NEA and its affiliates have also filed suits against aspects of teacher evaluation plans in Tennessee and, unsuccessfully, in Florida and Colorado.

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