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Skandera Still Awaiting Confirmation

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SANTA FE — More than two years after being appointed to the helm of New Mexico’s public school system, Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera still has not been confirmed by the state Senate.

And the prospect of Skandera getting a confirmation hearing during the ongoing 60-day legislative session appears to be hazy.

The chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, which will begin to work its way through a long list of confirmation hearings today, said Tuesday that there were no firm plans regarding Skandera.

“I’m hoping (to hold that hearing), but it’s a matter of scheduling,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque.

A Skandera hearing would probably consume an entire committee workday due to the large number of questions that members would likely pose, Lopez said.

Some Democratic senators have questioned whether Skandera, who has no teaching experience, is constitutionally qualified to be education secretary.

More recently, Skandera faced criticism for approving a new all-online charter school after a national nonprofit released thousands of emails between policymakers in several states, including New Mexico, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation. That foundation has received money from online education companies, and Skandera previously worked for the Florida Department of Education.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who appointed Skandera as her education secretary in January 2011, said in a recent Journal interview that she will continue to support Skandera regardless of whether a confirmation hearing is held this year.

“I hope that they will bring her up for confirmation … but if they don’t we’ll continue to move forward with the reforms we’ve proposed,” Martinez said.

Among other initiatives, Skandera has pushed for assigning letter grades to schools, requiring that third-graders show adequate reading proficiency before moving to the next grade level and a new teacher evaluation system.

The Senate Rules Committee’s scheduled confirmation hearings for today will focus on appointees to the state’s Environmental Improvement Board and Spaceport Authority, Lopez said.

Other unconfirmed Cabinet secretaries include Health Secretary Retta Ward and Aging and Long-Term Services Secretary Gino Rinaldi. Both Ward and Rinaldi were appointed to their positions last month.

Cabinet nominees have served for years without Senate confirmation votes in previous administrations. State law does not prohibit indefinite service absent a vote.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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