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Court is asked to rethink ruling on teacher evaluation program

BERNSTEIN: New rule conflicts with existing law

BERNSTEIN: New rule conflicts with existing law

SANTA FE, N.M. — A coalition of teachers unions and state lawmakers is asking the state Court of Appeals to reconsider its petition that the teacher evaluation program established by the state Public Education Department is invalid because it violates some state laws.

The appeal comes after District Judge Shannon Bacon last month dismissed the group’s petition, holding that PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera has a right to implement administrative rules such as the teacher evaluation program.

“We don’t think the judge ruled on what we were contending,” said Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, a party in the suit. “She ruled instead they have a right to make rule. We’re not saying they don’t have the right to make rule. What we’re saying is they don’t have a right to make rule that conflicts with existing law.”


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PED spokesman Larry Behrens said the issues raised in the appeal have been asked and answered by New Mexico courts.

“Time and money should be spent on our students – not on frivolous litigation,” Behrens said in a statement. “It’s truly a shame that union leaders are so opposed to implementing a system to finally recognize and reward our best teachers, while identifying and supporting those who need it.”

Joining the Albuquerque teachers union in the petition first filed in September was the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, state Sens. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, and Los Alamos teacher Ryan Ross.

Both Morales and Lopez have announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination to run for governor against Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

The group says the PED teacher evaluation program that it’s attempting to block violates state laws that require school principals to conduct in-class teacher observations, contrary to the PED plan, which allows other teachers to do observations. The group also is challenging the PED’s exemption of charter schools from some evaluation rules.

“What we hope is that it will delay an evaluation system that is not just poorly conceived, but so poorly implemented we can’t get the same answers to our questions on any two given days,” Bernstein said.

The appeal is expected to be considered by the state’s Court of Appeals over the next eight to 12 months, said Shane Youtz, the attorney representing the teachers group.