1) Rigged Job Qualification Requirements for Chief of Staff’s Wife’s $67,000 a Year Job: Hanna Skandera altered the job qualification requirements to ensure that the position of “Education Administrator-Advanced NAEP Coordinator” went to Stephanie Gardner, wife of Martinez Administration chief of staff Keith Gardner.
She added a new requirement that applicants had to have one year of classroom teaching experience within the previous year. This eliminated all other applicants, who were current administrators, from qualifying for the position, including the Acting Director of the position who had been performing the NAEP Coordinator duties since 2008.
Many of the candidates, including the Acting Director of the NAEP, had extensive classroom and administrator experience, as did all previous NAEP Coordinators. Stephanie Gardner did not. In fact, she had only received her administrator’s license in 2010. Yet the other applicants were disqualified for not having spent the previous year in a classroom.
2) Pay-to Play- Campaign Contributor Given Access to Taxpayer Funds Despite Services Already Being Provided by the State: K12, Inc. a Virginia based distance learning provider, contributed $5,000 to Susana Martinez. K12, Inc. had previously been denied access to New Mexico education funds because its programs did not meet minimum student to teacher face time requirements.
One of Skandera’s first actions was to fashion an “education reform bill” (SB 427) introduced in the 2011 legislative session. SB 427 called for any public school deemed to be failing three years out of five be converted into a charter school, and for its students to be allowed to enroll in a virtual online program “currently offered or approved by any other state.”
This bill would have allowed K12, Inc., to charge school districts $5,755 per student for its curriculum, without having to meet face time requirements. This money would have been siphoned away from IDEAL-NM, a state run online education program, taught by New Mexico teachers, using New Mexico approved curriculum and provided free or at low cost to New Mexico school districts.
SB 427 was reworked by the legislature to drop the wording designed to benefit K12, Inc.
K12, Inc. has been sued in a class action by shareholders for having “violated securities law by making false statements to investors about students’ poor performance on standardized tests” and for “boosting its enrollment and revenue through ‘deceptive recruiting practices.”
3) Reversing PEC Denial of Charter School Charters Represented by Her Intended “Options for Parents” Director: In December 2010, the New Mexico Public Education Commission voted not to renew the charters of three charter schools represented by lawyer/lobbyist Patty Matthews and her law partner Susan Fox.
The PEC had strong reasons for denying the charters including the fact that the “school’s “proficiency levels were well below the proficiency levels of the district.” And, “the school was not keeping pace with the progress that the district schools were making in closing the gap between the students’ performance and the annual measurable objectives articulated for the grade level served.”
However, in the spring of 2011,Skandera reversed the PEC ruling at the request of Matthews and Fox. She labeled the ruling, due to poor performance on standardized tests, a “vestige of an earlier time” as well as “arbitrary and capricious”.
Skandera blatantly applied a different evaluation standard to these charter schools than to traditional public schools she wished to shutter completely if they failed in a similar manner.
Shortly after her interceding on behalf of Patty Matthews clients, Skandera hired Matthews as her Options for Parents Director. Matthews represented most of the charter schools in the state as well as the charter school trade association as a lobbyist, and testified on their behalf at legislative hearings. She now regulates all of her clients.
Matthews has since referred charters schools in need of legal advice to her partner Susan Fox. She has also interceded on behalf of her clients, including one partnered with K12, Inc. who missed a deadline for a federal grant. Matthews waived the deadline and processed their application.
4) Manipulating Sole Source Contract to a Private Company Known to Have Double Billed the Taxpayers: In September 2011 Hanna Skandera submitted a Sole Source Determination Form to justify a $400,000 sole source contract to Teach for America. The form warns not to “tailor the criteria simply to exclude other contractors if it is not rationally related to the purpose of the contract.” The contract was to recruit and train teachers for public school communities with high Native American populations. However, Skandera created criteria that in fact excluded state run Native American teacher training programs operated by UNM and CNM.
She “required a Contractor who could provide a corps of teachers who are adequately trained through summer institutes and summer programs, seminars and practice sessions”. UNM and CNM train teachers for Native American districts to teach in regular classrooms for the entire school year, not limited to summer programs
Teach for America was awarded $400,000 in September 2011, with only $4000 earmarked for Native American teachers.
Teach for America was caught double billing New Mexico taxpayers for over $100,000 in 2009. They were forced to return the money.
For more information please see the complete report on Hanna Skandera’s administration of the Public Education Department.