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Union wants debate on teacher evaluations

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Teachers Federation has thrown down the gauntlet in the form of an invitation to debate the new teacher evaluation system, but New Mexico Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said Thursday she’ll not be picking up the glove.

On Sept. 27, ATF president Ellen Bernstein sent a letter to Skandera, inviting her to participate in a “formal debate” and noting that: “As you are aware, we have had serious concerns about the efficacy of this system and have, through the legislative process, offered an alternative that is based in ‘best practices.’”

Now that the evaluation system is being implemented, Bernstein wrote, there should be a serious debate “that includes the voices of the professional practitioners who are experiencing the policy, as well as the voice of its primary designer.”

The letter went on to offer 26 dates in October, November and December when the debate could take place.

Larry Behrens, spokesman for the state Public Education Department, said Thursday that Skandera will not be meeting ATF members for any such debate.

“What is disappointing, but not surprising, is that this so-called offer from the status quo defenders does not once mention the most important element of education – our students,” said Behrens. “It’s unfortunate our students can’t afford the organized political operation from which ATF union leaders benefit.”

Further, ATF leaders have decided “they would rather have this debate in the courts, even though they already lost before the New Mexico Supreme Court,” he said.

Last month, a cadre of teachers unions, state legislators and an individual teacher filed a legal petition against the state Public Education Department seeking to halt the new teacher evaluation system. The petition claims that portions of the evaluations conflict with state law and are therefore illegal.

At that time, Behrens said the lawsuit “rehashes the same tired arguments the Supreme Court rejected late last year.”

Regarding this latest debate invitation, Behrens said: “Their stalling tactics in the courts make it impossible for us to even seriously consider their ‘offer.’”

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