The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white. As an undergraduate studying calculus at Stanford University in the mid-1990s, Candice Jackson “gravitated” toward a section of the class that provided students with extra help on challenging problems, she wrote in a student publication. Then she learned that the section was reserved for minority students. “I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” she wrote in the Stanford Review. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”
Objections by U.S. Senate Republicans ended talk that Hanna Skandera might join the Donald Trump administration, according to a report in Politico Thursday. The report, which led the outlet’s Morning Education tipsheet, said the New Mexico Public Education Department secretary’s support for the controversial Common Core standards were one reason Republicans were skeptical to confirm her as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “I am focused on continuing the great progress we have started and will continue in New Mexico,” Skandera said in a statement to NM Political Report when asked about if she had any conversations about joining the Trump administration. “When education focuses on students and not politics, everyone wins.”
Skandera is the head of the governing board of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which produces a standardized test in public schools aligned with Common Core. Republicans have largely criticized Common Core standards, which the Barack Obama administration supported. Common Core standards’ roots came out of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act.
At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for education secretary, responded to a question about whether she would promote “junk science” by saying she supports science teaching that “allows students to exercise critical thinking.” This seemingly innocuous statement has raised alarms among science education advocates, and buoyed the hopes of conservative Christian groups that, if confirmed, DeVos may use her bully pulpit atop the U.S. Department of Education to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools. DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design. Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula.
The U.S. Senate is working its way through President Donald Trump’s nominees for key positions. Republicans have generally been supportive of Trump’s nominees, with
a few exceptions. Democrats have largely picked their battles over nominations, allowing some to sail through, while delaying others. NM Political Report will continue to track the floor votes by Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on each of the nominees. When either of the Senators said before a vote, either in a statement or in a news story, that they would support or oppose a nominee, NM Political Report will indicate that.
Gov. Susana Martinez likes Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. Martinez wrote an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily in which she praised the president-elect’s selection of the Michigan billionaire to head the federal department that oversees education. “She has extensive experience and an unquestionable commitment to our children. For nearly three decades, she has been on the front lines in dozens of state capitals, working with parents to promote school choice and accountability in the classroom,” Martinez wrote. “As our secretary of education, she’s going to continue that fight.”
Martinez also wrote that DeVos could help move toward “local control and school choice.”
DeVos is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and led the American Federation for Children, an organization that advocates for school choice.
New Mexico’s Public Education Department secretary may be part of Donald Trump’s incoming presidential administration. That’s according to Politico, which reported it Friday morning, citing unnamed sources. Politico reported that “Hanna Skandera is under consideration for education deputy secretary or undersecretary in the Trump administration.”
Billionaire Betsy DeVos is Trump’s pick for secretary of education and, like Skandera, is a proponent of Common Core. Skandera took over the governing board for the PARCC test in January, Politico noted. Before heading to New Mexico, Skandera was the deputy commissioner of education under then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush.