Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday finally hired her secretary of public education, and both said they aren’t afraid of the challenges ahead. “I’m feeling not so much fear but excitement,” said Karen Trujillo, a longtime educator from Las Cruces, who will lead the department. In choosing Trujillo for the $128,000-a-year job, Lujan Grisham ended weeks of speculation about who would overhaul a public education system often ranked as one of the worst in the country. The governor said Trujillo leads an “all-star team of education” professionals. Together, they hired four New Mexico educators as deputy secretaries and a special adviser from California whose background is in education and sociology.
When Michelle Lujan Grisham announced after the election she was building a transition team to help gather data and create strategies for reforming the state’s public education system, it was perhaps no surprise that five of the roughly 30 members of the group represented teachers unions. That didn’t come as much of a surprise to many observers: Teachers unions have aligned themselves with Democratic Party candidates and leaders for many years, and had endorsed Lujan Grisham in the 2018 election — just as they had backed Democrat Gary King in 2014 against then-Gov. Susana Martinez. Now, as Lujan Grisham embarks on a 60-day legislative session in which the future of New Mexico’s educational system will be a central topic, the power of the unions will be a looming question. Will their power be on full display in 2019 and beyond, or are they simply moving back into the picture after eight years of often-bitter battles with the Martinez administration? Several Republican legislators say they expect the unions will have undeniable influence, particularly when it comes to pushing for higher teacher pay and changes in the state’s teacher evaluation system, which has relied heavily on student test scores to measure a teacher’s effectiveness.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke about what she sees wrong with President Donald Trump’s tax policy and encouraged New Mexicans to voice their concerns about the recent bill at a public roundtable discussion of federal tax policy Friday. New Mexico’s U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and National Education Association of New Mexico director Charles Bowyer joined the California Democrat. Both the policy itself and the process in which Congress approved it faced major criticisms over the hour-long discussion. Pelosi said extensive debates and discussions are generally expected on major tax bills. “None of that was accomplished in the dark of night, in the speed of light,” Pelosi said.
Gov. Susana Martinez’s recently announced changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system came from discussions between a panel of New Mexico educators and state Public Education Department officials. This is according to Chris Eide, the national director of state policy, advocacy and partnerships with Teach Plus. The Boston-based nonprofit, which focuses on teacher-driven education reform, launched an initiative in New Mexico last year to look at teacher evaluations and teacher preparation. Over the weekend, Martinez accepted two recommendations from the New Mexico Teach Plus task force. One allows teachers to use up to six absences without affecting the attendance portion of their state teacher evaluations.
A Republican legislator on Friday began his attempt to override Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of a bill that would enable teachers to use more sick days without being penalized in their performance evaluation. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, moved to have the vetoed bill returned to the Senate so he could seek an override early next week. Martinez is also a Republican, but Brandt said he would continue pursuing the override unless they can reach a compromise in which teachers are not penalized. He said he had initiated conversations with Martinez’s Public Education Department in hopes of starting such a discussion. Related: Martinez vetoes bill on use of sick leave impacting teachers’ evaluations
“I don’t take any joy in overriding a veto,” Brandt said.
State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said Monday she will push for legislation to reduce the amount of weight that student test scores play in teacher evaluations. Skandera’s announcement represents a step back — albeit a small one — from her long-running push to tie teacher effectiveness to student test scores. It received a mixed response from leaders of one state teachers’ union. Skandera said she is responding to input that the Public Education Department received during a statewide listening tour to solicit feedback on what the state can do to prepare for implementing the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act guidelines, which go into effect next summer. “We wanted to be responsive.
A high profile bill to hold back third grade students who cannot read at grade level passed the House Education Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday morning. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, presented HB 41 along with her expert witness, Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera. The proposed legislation would require school officials to closely monitor a student’s reading proficiency and retain them if it is not up to grade level by the third grade. Opponents of the bill addressed the committee with their concerns. A common sentiment among those who opposed the bill was that the focus needs to be on intervention and that retention is not the answer.