Hanna Skandera keeps job after nomination stalls in committee

Posted at: 02/17/2014 10:27 AM
Updated at: 02/17/2014 5:09 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico's embattled public education chief has survived another threat to boot her out of her job. A dramatic showdown over Public Education Secretary-designee Hanna Skandera fizzled out on a deadlock vote in the state Senate Rules Committee this morning. Bottom line: she keeps her job - without a Senate confirmation - just the way it's been for the past three years.

Skandera's long-awaited confirmation hearing took place Monday morning, and Democrats on the Rules Committee couldn't come up with the votes to give her the boot. Skandera is the lightning rod for the sometimes controversial education policies of Gov. Susana Martinez, and she survived yet another jolt.

"I think I've demonstrated from start to finish that I'm committed to our kids and nothing has changed," Skandera said after the hearing. "I made a commitment to that committee that no matter how they voted and I made a commitment to the state and the governor - I'll keep it. I'll walk it out."

"Teachers are going to be very disappointed," said Albuquerque Teachers Federation president Ellen Bernstein. "They call on a regular basis and they ask me how she can possibly still be there. She's not even qualified. They see a lot of the policies hurting their ability to teach well."

Many teachers complain about too much standardized testing - not enough teaching - and that "A through F" school grading system that Skandera imposed.

"She does not have the qualifications that are laid out under the state constitution," said Stephanie Ly, president of the New Mexico Teachers Federation. "She has not taught in the classroom, she doesn't have a teacher's license. She doesn't have an administrator's license here in New Mexico."

What she does have is a job - Secretary of Public Education in everything but the official name. Call her Secretary-designee, or acting Secretary - she is still the boss of the public school system.

Sen. Linda Lopez, who chairs the Rules Committee, is also running for the Democratic nomination for governor, hoping to challenge Gov. Susana Martinez in the November election. That led some legislative Republicans to call the Rules Committee hearing political grandstanding. Lopez begs to differ.

"As chairman of this committee for the last 13 years I have challenged not just this governor but Gov. Richardson also," Lopez said. "It is history. It is there."

For the record, she was a royal pain for Democrat Richardson on confirmations and other issues, as well as for Republican Martinez.