ISPAC previously broke the story that Public Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera may have placed millions of dollars in federal funding to local school districts at risk when she eliminated the entire Educational Technologies Bureau. Ispac has obtained a new email that not only reinforces that concern, but chastises her for ignoring the risks that her actions have caused.
Until it’s elimination, the Educational Technologies Bureau had been responsible for assisting school districts and libraries to navigate the complexities of securing funding through the E-rate program. The E-rate federal grant program helps to “ensure that schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.”
This funding is even more critical to school districts as they develop and administer education programs as Governor Susana Martinez refuses to provide new revenue sources to meet the needs of New Mexico’s students as they prepare for their future.
The Public Education Department’s responsibilities concerning the E-rate program include certifying the plans so the school districts can be reimbursed and to assist the local school districts in training and in making sure they continue to be in compliance with the federal requirements governing the program.
Over the past decade, this program has quietly provided over $516 million to assist local school districts meet the technology and communications needs to educate New Mexico’s children. Read the year-by-year break down of the money to New Mexico schools districts and libraries here.
While the year is not over, this chart shows a significant drop off in funding for 2011. Last year, this funding meant over $45 million to New Mexico school districts.
Governor Susan Martinez and her Education Secretary Designate Skandera promised to bring bold new changes to education in New Mexico. Instead, it now appears that they have no clue in how to administer education policy or practice.
In ISPAC’s initial story that looked at how the layoff of over thirty key employees of the PED impacted the E-rate program, we published an email (scroll down to the original story to see the entire email) by Verne Smith, Chairperson of the New Mexico Council on Technology in Education dated Sunday, June 12, 2011 that was written to his fellow council members:
“Please accept this as notification of an emergency meeting of the NM Council on Technology in Education. The meeting will be held on-line using Adobe Connect on Thursday, June 16, from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM. I will forward an agenda and the meeting URL later today.
Regretfully, if you have not already heard, it is my unpleasant duty to inform you that the Educational Technologies Bureau at the NMPED was laid off on Friday along with 29 other PED staffers.
The implications for the State of New Mexico are disastrous at best.”
Despite the initial concerns, it appears that Skandera was able to convince Mr. Smith and his colleagues that things were under control.
However, thanks to the new email from Vernon Smith dated October 18, 2011, we now know that Skandera did not have a plan to address the problem, so “CTE took on the role of reviewers and recommenders to support our students, Tech Directors and Superintendents around the state. We wanted to assure that no district was going to lose money due to the short-sighted actions of the NMPED.”
Smith’s email continued, “However, the PED has not made any effort to replace the lost reviewers. Nor do they have a single person on staff who knows the first thing about technology plans. They have nobody on staff who can sit down with a school district and help them to develop an acceptable technology plan. The PED is not providing training and meeting opportunities that support technologists and Superintendents wanting to develop expertise in this critical task.”
Smith’s email then points to something that speaks directly to Skandera’s administration of PED, “The PED and the Secretary-Designate (and her saff) have seen fit to avoid communications with the CTE while we are doing their work free of charge. Further, my colleagues and I have developed concerns that the PED has unfairly left us in a position where we are forced to pass judgment on the work of our peers. While we certainly have the expertise, we have neither the authority or responsibility for such a role as an ongoing activity.”
No good deed goes unpunished.
Smith concludes with, “I can guarantee that my two organizations will continue to provide training and support to every district and school that needs help with their technology plan. We will just stop doing the PED’s evaluation job.”
ISPAC is in the process of requesting all communications and documents relative to this program and will post those documents as soon as we receive them from PED, local school districts and the federal government. Read the email below. Click on the icon in the lower left corner to read it on a full screen.