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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Not One New Mexican But Lots of Bushies, Floridians and NCLB Fans: Susana Martinez's Education Advisory Team

Coming to NM Education: Cronies of Jeb and George Bush

New Mexico's Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary-designee Hanna Skandera today announced the administration's Public Education Advisory team. Shockingly, the team includes not a single New Mexican, and is primarily made up of former Jeb and George Bush appointees with Florida connections and proponents of the failed No Child Left Behind Act. Skandera, herself, is a veteran of the administration of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and was in charge of authorizing the Federal No Child Left Behind Act in President George Bush's administration.

According to a press release, the New Mexico Public Education Department has contracted with these out-of-state advisers as an alternative to the immediate hiring of many of the Department’s exempt positions. They are charged with making recommendations to Skandera on short-term and long-term strategies. I wonder what they will be paid and how their contracts are structured. With Susana's professed love of transparency, we should find out soon, right?

"This is a slap in the face to New Mexicans who have spent their lives and careers educating our children and working to improve the school system," said Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM) Chairman Javier Gonzales. "To not have one single New Mexican -- be it a parent or someone who has spent time in a New Mexico classroom -- sends a strong message that Gov. Martinez and Secretary Skandera could care less about what New Mexico parents, teachers and children have to say about education."

"New Mexico parents, teachers and students support, attend and work at our public schools," Gonzales continued. "New Mexicans have a personal commitment to seeing our schools improve. To not have one New Mexican at the leadership table is utterly callous and dismissive of the role ordinary New Mexicans play in improving the schools in their community. Everyone agrees that we need to reform New Mexico’s education system and improve outcomes for our students, but not including New Mexicans at the leadership table is just plain wrong.”

Click for a list of Martinez's education advisors and their backgrounds, including the glowing descriptions provided by the governor, as well as a few of my own additions. I've highlighted their Florida, No Child Left Behind, Jeb Bush and George Bush connections in red.

And what's going on these days with Florida's public education system? Read on ...

How's It Going In Florida?
An article on a Jacksonville paper's website today describes the ongoing battle over conservative education legislation in the state -- one that began when Jeb Bush was governor. The most recent bill attacking teachers and teachers' unions would "base raises to teachers on the improvement of students in their classrooms and gut employment protections for teachers that are commonly referred to as tenure. New teachers would be on a rotating, one-year contract — rather than the “professional service contracts” they currently hold."

The current bill is a modified version of legislation passed by the Florida legislature last year that was vetoed by then-Governor Charlie Crist. Crist, as you may recall, had to quit the Republican Party in part because of this veto. He unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. Senate seat there as an independent.

There's also been an unsuccessful attempt in Florida this year to pass legislation to greatly expand >private school vouchers. Conservative Governor Rick Scott has pushed for "education savings accounts" giving parents of public school children 85 percent of the cost of a public school education to send their children to a private school if they desired. That plan ran into opposition because Florida has a budget shortfall of about $4 billion and may be laying off teachers as part of more education budget cuts there.

Gov. Scott's transition team, led by one Patricia Levesque — the head of the Foundation for Florida's Future set up by former Gov. Jeb Bush — also recommended that a constitutional amendment be placed on the ballot to help make such a voucher program immune to legal attack. Note that Kristy Campbell, who has been tagged as Susana Martinez's education communications advisor, worked at the Foundation for Florida's Future.

During the past 36 months, Florida's public education system has slashed almost 12,000 full-time jobs --most of them support-staff such as teacher aides, janitors, clerks, technicians, bus drivers and anyone else who isn't a teacher or administrator. Although it's been difficult to lay off teachers due to Florida's strict class-size limitations, that also may be on the table given the Florida governor's plan to cut $3.3 billion more from the state's education budget. According to union officials, Scott's cuts will mean "layoffs and steep cuts in transportation, art, music, athletics and extracurricular activities."

Get the picture on what the Martinez administration plans for New Mexico's education system? It ain't pretty. I hope our Democrats, unions and parents are up to the task of countering this bunch. The coming onslaught on public education will be fierce from the Jeb-George Bush-Florida cabal that Martinez is bringing into New Mexico. They are obviously organized, connected, seasoned, smart, determined and extremely -- even radically -- conservative.

Note: Also see a ranking of this new advisory team according to GOP cred, Bush cred and education cred in the Santa Fe Reporter article, Screw Texas; NM's Looking More Like Florida.

February 9, 2011 at 10:16 PM in Democratic Party, Education, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink


This makes me sick to my stomach. As a native New Mexican, and an 11-year educator in New Mexico, I don't see the value in any aspect of the new governor's plan for New Mexico's children.

Posted by: Robin Gibson | Feb 9, 2011 11:09:34 PM

Just what we need-importing the crazies that are bankrupting and destroying the education system in Florida. We need some much stronger leaders to stand up to these people. Where are they?

Posted by: Prof | Feb 10, 2011 1:31:19 AM

Maybe they think that if they dumb down New Mexicans, they will get more Republican voters. Sad but true. And putting that crazy ex-astronaut who calls himself a scientist in charge of energy policy for the state just shows how low and stupid the Martinez adminisration truly is.

Posted by: Stuart | Feb 10, 2011 8:08:55 AM

This is an all out attack from the Bush cronies! Does anyone in power see what's at stake? Are they prepared to fight back? NM seems like easy pickings.

Posted by: Old Dem | Feb 10, 2011 4:44:19 PM

Excellent article. I am glad that some people are seeing the light in what will happen to public education in NM. It's all about the test scores, AYP and one size fits all model for our students. The voucher system is mostly for urban areas. What school choices will our rural students have if their current school is sub par? The answer: just throw some online learning at them. These are very damaging education policies that are being set up and bills carried by some of our most powerful legislators (Democrats, too). These are sad times for NM public education.

Posted by: Dieter | Feb 11, 2011 11:09:44 AM

Those who are concerned have good reason for their thoughts. A quick way to take some air out of this tire would be to circulate the recent awarding of a Bunkum Award from the National Education Policy to Matt Ladner, likely a major salesman of the illusions of Florida to NM. Google Bunkum and Matthew Ladner. Educate New Mexico. Good luck!

Posted by: Floridian Speaks | Feb 11, 2011 5:50:41 PM