After Senate override effort, veto unchallenged in House

The state Senate’s extraordinary effort to override a veto by Gov. Susana Martinez has landed with a thud in the House of Representatives. Two days after senators voted overwhelmingly to save a bill that would have allowed teachers to use more sick days without being penalized in their performance evaluation, no one has stepped forward in the House to call for a similar override vote. Note: This piece has been updated throughout. Majority Democrats are looking to Republicans who co-sponsored the bill to push for the override in the House. Related: Senate votes to override Martinez veto on teacher absences bill

A two-thirds majority of both the Senate and House is needed to override a veto.

Bill would give teachers more sick time

A bill that would allow teachers to take up to 10 days of sick leave without it hurting their performance evaluations is headed to the desk of Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration. The state Senate on Monday unanimously approved House Bill 241, which is subtitled “Teachers are human, too.” It amends the School Personnel Act so that using up to 10 days of personal leave or sick days in a school year would not negatively affect teachers’ performance reviews. “Teachers will do a better job teaching and will not get the students sick if they are healthy when they are in the classroom,” said Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We should not punish them for doing their job.”

N.M. high school graduation rate up to 71%

New Mexico’s high school graduation rate rose to 71 percent in 2016, the highest percentage since the state began tracking four-year rates in 2008, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday. The rate jumped 2½ points from the previous year and increased in 48 of the state’s 89 school districts in 2016, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe. “With more students graduating high school than ever before, New Mexico is better preparing our kids to enter the workforce, college and beyond,” Martinez said at a news conference at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. The governor used the occasion to again push her plan to end the practice of so-called social promotion — moving students forward to the next grade — for third graders who cannot read proficiently. The graduation rate for Santa Fe Public Schools in 2016 was 71 percent, up from 66.8 percent for the previous year.

PED let superintendent’s license lapse before renewing it

Public documents show the superintendent of a school district in Sandoval County worked for four months in 2015 on an expired state educator license. But that superintendent, Allan Tapia of Bernalillo Municipal Schools, blames the state Public Education Department for not processing his license on time. “If they didn’t process it on their end, I didn’t have control over that,” he said in an interview. The documents, obtained through public records requests to the state by NM Political Report, show a 115-day gap between the expiration of Tapia’s administrative license and its renewal by the state Public Education Department last year. They also show the state’s renewal of Tapia’s administrative license came nearly four months after his previous license expired.

APS halts teacher punishments tied to test scores

Albuquerque teachers punished for low scores earlier this year on state teacher evaluations need no longer worry—for now. A memo sent this week to principals across Albuquerque Public Schools says that “effective immediately” the district is suspending all teacher professional growth plans based on evaluations from the state’s NMTEACH program. Based on the New Mexico Public Education Department’s figures of the percentage of low scoring teachers and APS’ total amount of teachers, the pause affects more than 1,500 teachers in the state’s largest school district. APS made the decision one week after a Santa Fe District judge temporarily barred the PED from using scores from the state’s controversial teacher evaluations for school personnel decisions. A PED spokesman didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story.

Senate passes NCLB overhaul with NM Senators’ support

Both New Mexico senators voted in favor of a No Child Left Behind replacement Wednesday, following unanimous support last week on the same bill from the state’s Congressional delegation. Democrats and teachers unions have widely praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for taking away federal oversight of accountability from standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government could withhold money from schools that scored low on the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which were made from standardized test scores. The new bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week, leaves this type of accountability measures to the states. “It gives states the decision on high stakes testing, which unfortunately in our state the governor wants,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said in an interview.

Report: PED licensed superintendent based on forged credentials

A Las Vegas Optic investigation into whether a Mora superintendent forged his state educator administration credentials is prompting at least two outside investigations into the matter. Over the weekend, the newspaper ran a story it had been working on for five months concluding that Mora Independent Schools District Superintendent Charles E. Trujillo, in the story’s own words, “faked his credentials in order to qualify for the administrative license he received.” The discrepancies include Trujillo faking a Highlands University transcript to show that he had a Master’s Degree, lying that he was employed as an education administrator for seven years instead of two and a half years and exaggerating that he worked as an adjunct instructor at Luna Community College for six years instead of three years. The state Public Education Department (PED), according to the Optic story, gave Trujillo an administrative license based on his Master’s Degree, for having more than six years experience as an education administrator and more than six years experience as an instructor. All ended up being not true, according to the Optic.

APS seeks 300 teachers, though says there is no shortage

As Albuquerque Public Schools wrapped up a job fair to recruit more faculty, some were asking why there is such a great need for teachers even as APS says there is no shortage. KOAT-TV reported that APS is short by about 300 teachers. Monica Armenta, the APS executive director of communications, told the station that there are more demands for teachers and pay has stayed about the same. Another APS official told New Mexico Political Report that there isn’t really a shortage, at least when compared to previous years. APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said staffing numbers are always low this time of year.

Public Education Department chose to deceive

Charles Goodmacher is the government and media relations director for NEA-New Mexico
Every New Mexico student deserves the opportunity for an education led by high-quality teachers. The system brought in when the Public Education Department threw out the old one is doing the opposite – driving great teachers away and limiting the time available for the teachers who remain to provide a high quality, well-rounded education as they sacrifice that to a test-driven standardized curriculum. New Mexico students are being short-changed by the new evaluation system implemented by Secretary Hanna Skandera, based on the false assertion that 99.8 percent of teachers were evaluated as satisfactory under the prior evaluation system. This figure was stated again and again, before legislative committees and to the media — so much so it became accepted as the truth as shown in these May 16 and July 26, 2014 Albuquerque Journal articles and this KRQE story on the new system. They used that political claim to impose their system, which unfairly subjects students to over-testing and thereby short changes students with an emphasis on only those subjects that are easily tested.

Judge rules PED violated state open records law

A Santa Fe district court judge handed down fines to the state’s Public Education Department Thursday afternoon for failing to properly respond to public records requests from a teachers’ union. The state must pay nearly $500, plus attorneys fees, for failing to abide by the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The main contention was the union’s records request centered around National Education Association New Mexico (NEA) attorney Jerry Todd Wertheim said was “the core of public debate over the teacher evaluation system.” The union asked for all public documents associated with a claim often repeated by PED Secretary Hanna Skandera and others over the years—that the previous state teacher evaluation system found more than 99 percent of the state’s teachers competent. They said this showed it was not an effective evaluation.