Skandera’s NCLB Waiver is a Fail for Minorities in New Mexico

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

distinct considerations.

“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

work.”

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

our children.”

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