Hanna Skandera, The Gift Act, Restricted Donors, and Her Congressional Testimony
Like many states, New Mexico prohibits certain individuals and entities from paying for travel and accommodation of a state officer or employee. New Mexico’s Gift Act makes no distinction between for profit and nonprofit entities in this prohibition. Neither does the US Supreme Court, who ruled in its Citizens’ United decision, that a corporation, be it for profit or nonprofit, is the same as a person under the law.
The Gift Act, NMSA 1978 10-16-B-2(D) defines a restricted donor as “a person who “will personally be, or is the agent of a person who will be, directly and substantially affected financially by the performance or nonperformance of the donee’s official duty in a way that is greater than the effect on the public generally or on a substantial class of persons to which the person belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry or region.”
The Foundation for Excellence in Education (“FEE”) is heavily funded by companies in the for-profit “virtual” education industry including K12, Inc., and Connections, Inc. New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate, Hanna Skandera, is fully aware that funding for FEE comes from these virtual for-profit businesses because she has worked for FEE and help establish its Chiefs for Change unit.
Thanks to Christy Hovanetz, a fulltime salaried senior fellow at FEE, Skandera introduced legislation to greatly expand access of these two virtual education companies to New Mexico public education dollars. She has also opened the door in New Mexico to K12, Inc. and Connections Inc. by allowing them to provide for-profit management services to charter schools despite such a prohibition under New Mexico law.
In September 2011, FEE paid for Skandera to travel to Washington, DC to testify before the US House Education and Workforce Committee. She testified as the Secretary-designate for the New Mexico Public Education Department (in her official capacity) on 9/14/11. As part of her testimony, Skandera testified to her expansion of virtual education in New Mexico, “we are also pursuing effective virtual options”.
Further, Skandera specifically asked the United States Congress to give her funding flexibility to increase virtual school access to New Mexico. She testified; “I encourage Congress to consider flexibility for states in the use of federal dollars to pursue robust virtual school offerings for students in under-served areas.”
Skandera’s travel and accommodations were funded by FEE, which is funded by K12, Inc. and Connections, Inc. FEE is clearly the agent of Connections Inc. and K12, Inc. She then lobbied congress to give her funding flexibility to increase the virtual industry’s access to New Mexico education dollars and has allowed them to operate illegally in our state.