March 23, 2017

Report: After GOP opposition, no Skandera federal nomination

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.

Related: Martinez praises Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education

In New Mexico, however, Democrats have largely opposed Common Core while Republicans like Gov. Susana Martinez have been vocal supporters.

Politico cited “about a dozen Republican offices” who said they were unlikely to ever vote for Skandera. Republicans hold a four-member advantage in the Senate, so if Democrats were to vote en masse against a candidate, Republicans would only be able to lose two senators to win a vote.

Another reason was the tough confirmation of federal Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos. Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico voted against the DeVos nomination. The overall Senate DeVos vote tied among senators, so Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to confirm her—an unusual occurrence, especially for presidential cabinet confirmations.

The full story is in PoliticoPro, a high-dollar subscription service from Politico.

DeVos received heavy support from advocates in favor of school vouchers and school choice. And Martinez wrote a letter to Investors Business Daily praising Trump’s selection of DeVos.

A month before Martinez’s letter, Politico reported Skandera was under consideration for education deputy secretary or undersecretary under DeVos.

Related: Miffed by pace of confirmations, Gov. withdraws appointees

Skandera herself saw a drawn-out nomination process for her role in charge of the Public Education Department in New Mexico. The state Senate Rules Committee did not vote to confirm Skandera until four years after Martinez nominated her. Nominees can serve as “secretary-designates” until a confirmation vote by the Senate in New Mexico, which Skandera did, unlike in the federal ranks.

Before coming to New Mexico, Skandera was the deputy commissioner of education in Florida under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Update: Added statement by Hanna Skandera