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Senate OKs Karen Trujillo as education secretary

Karen Trujillo

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Karen Trujillo easily won Senate confirmation as New Mexico education secretary Monday.

Trujillo won confirmation in the Senate by a 38-0 vote. It came after a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee that lasted less than two hours.

Her confirmation lacked the drama of the confirmation of former Gov. Susana Martinez’s pick to head the Public Education Department, Hanna Skandera. It took four years for Skandera to be confirmed, partly because of constitutional questions over her qualifications. Skandera’s successor, Chris Ruszkowski, was never confirmed.

Trujillo’s confirmation comes less than two months after her nomination by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said it was nice “not to have to look at the Constitution to see if this applies.”

No one spoke in opposition to Trujillo’s confirmation during a Senate Rules Committee meeting or on the Senate floor before the vote. Lawmakers praised Trujillo’s background as an educator, which Skandera lacked.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, said he was impressed with Trujillo’s answers during the hearing.

“Now we have an educator who will listen to students,” Sanchez said. “She understands classrooms. She understands schools.”

Trujillo told the Senate Rules Committee she was excited to serve as education secretary.

“We have an amazing team at the Public Education Department,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo fielded questions about her views on vocational training, bus safety, assessment changes, adult education, charter school funding, early childhood education, special education training and other issues.

One of her duties will be fulfilling a Lujan Grisham promise of replacing the PARCC assessment, which was put into place during Skandera’s tenure.

Trujillo told the committee that PED officials have been talking to communities “to see what the assessment should look like.” That includes “engaging teachers,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo said it was important to have teachers on board with the changes.

An assessment is federally mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“We want to make sure our assessments are culturally responsive to who we are in New Mexico,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo did voice concerns in the hearing about “testing students to death.”

“You can’t test students into proficiency,” she said.

She said she wanted to see the PED as a resource center for teachers and school administrators.

“We need to have a sense of mission,” Trujillo said. “We need to know how to align our resources (to accomplish the mission).”

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