The top education official in New Mexico has disregarded the state’s
diversity and culture, according to lawmakers at the legislature, and
now our public schools remain locked into the federal government’s No
Child Left Behind program.
Eleven states applied for a waiver from NCLB. Of those, New Mexico was
the only state that wasn’t approved.
The U.S. Education Department would not say Thursday why New Mexico’s
waiver request was denied. A federal spokesman would only say the
agency continues to work with the New Mexico Public Education
Department to reconcile the Feds’ qualms.
Legislators, though, think they know what the problem was.
PED Secretary Hanna Skandera ignored Native American and Hispanic
groups who sought to provide input in educations policy including the
waiver, said Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Bernalillo).
“Through this whole process, she had to work with subgroups, including
Native Americans and Hispanics,” Lopez said. “She hasn’t done that.”
The PED’s planned A-through-F grading system for New Mexico’s public
schools was compiled without factoring in the issues of minority
groups, Lopez said, in rural or poorer districts with their own
“It’s like she’s forgotten them,” Lopez said of Skandera. “I’m glad
the Feds appreciate us for what we are, with our cultures and
diversity. She doesn’t.”
Said Sen. Howie Morales (D-Socorro): “We hear from minority
populations and education groups that their voices are not being
heard” in relation to education.
Rep. Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo) is the chair of the House Education
Committee. He said Skandera’s waiver request was denied for a variety
of reasons: “foremost, she did not adequately confer with our schools,
our teachers, our communities.”
Principally, New Mexico was supposed to address its achievement gap
between ethnicities, and difficulties of educating such a large
percentage of English-language learners.
“She rushed it,” Miera said of the waiver, “and did not address the
issues that need to be addressed in New Mexico. She needs to get to
Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Bernalillo) referenced
Skandera walking out on an Education Study Committee hearing prior to
testimony on “Educating New Mexico’s minority/majority children.”
“You can’t be in a minority/majority state, with 90,000 students who
are minorities and English language learners, and not want to listen,”
Stapleton said. “”When she walked out, that gave a major impression on
how she feels about those students.”
The U.S. Education Department stressed to ISPAC that New Mexico’s
waver wasn’t flat-out denied, just that there was still more work to
be done with Skandera’s department before it could be approved.
“They’re saying ‘We’re working on it,’” said Lopez. “This is about our
children. Our children are not a work in progress. We don’t work on