I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Skandera pushes education agenda imported from Florida and Jeb Bush
In an effort to stem the tide of controversy and criticism leveled at her since being designated earlier this year by Governor Susana Martinez as state education secretary, Hanna Skandera sent out a letter last week to the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators asking for their help in reshaping the state’s social promotion bill, among other requests.
Most recently, Skandera’s department has been taking a beating in radio ads sponsored by Michael Corwin and his Independent Source PAC, in which the liberal political action committee took her, the governor and the state’s public education administrators to task for alleged conflicts of interest.
Skandera, though, seems to brush aside such indiscretions, nor does the fact that she’s still unconfirmed worry her either, having told the New Mexican in an interview yesterday, “I don’t care.”
Instead, she’s lobbying for the new A-F grading system, which lawmakers passed in last February’s legislative session. Toward that end, she’ll be holding a public meeting in Santa Fe October 31. She’s also hoping to gather more support for her controversial plan to revamp the social promotion bill.
Her plan, which she wants to rename the reading intervention bill, would jettison the practice of sending those third graders who cannot read at a proficient level onto the next grade. It’s an idea Corwin, among others, has argued against, citing sociologist and longtime member of the National Academy of Sciences Robert M. Houser’s congressional testimony that “the research evidence is overwhelming: Simply holding back students who have not achieved to the appropriate standard does not work.”
It’s also an agenda Skandera appears to have brought with her from Florida, where she served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy commissioner of education and advocated the eradication of social promotion, among other changes.
In 2007, Bush, along with Zachariah Zachariah and Brian Yablonski (both of whom have been under investigation by the SEC), founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group that helped draft last year’s New Mexico senate bill 427, the so-called “education reform” bill introduced by Senator Vernon Asbill.
In her interview with the New Mexican, Skandera also told reporter Robert Nott of her desire to move New Mexico students into a virtual learning environment, one provided not by that already in place under the state’s Higher Education Department but one contracted out to a private company. Toward that end, Skandera said the state just submitted a grant to the Jaquelin Hume Foundation in order to raise funds for a study on digital-learning resources.
The push for digital learning is another facet of the “Florida model” of education: through his Digital Learning Council, Bush has also emphasized distance learning via the internet as a way to teach children; and distance learning that’s contracted out to private distance-learning companies such as K12, the company that contributed $5,000 to Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
The Hume Foundation was founded by in 1962 by Jaquelin Hume, a major donor to Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential campaigns. Hume also founded Citizens for America, the conservative grass-roots organization once known as “President Reagan’s Lobby.” The Hume Foundation has connections to many other conservative and fundamentalist foundations, many of which were started up and are funded by ultra-conservatives like Richard Mellon Scaife and Charles and David Koch.
Skandera did not address Corwin’s ads nor any of the other issues raised by them. She did not respond to NMI’s request for comment.