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Korte calls legislator a ‘traitor’ over his votes on education

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A Facebook post in which Kathy Korte calls a state lawmaker a traitor has landed her in hot water with some of her peers on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board.

KORTE: Wrote on postcard, "Return to sender. Traitor. You are not listening."

KORTE: Wrote on postcard, “Return to sender. Traitor. You are not listening.”

Korte recently posted a picture on her Facebook page of a mailing from Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. On the mailing, she had written, “Return to sender. Traitor. You are not listening.”

Korte said this week she called Pacheco a traitor in large part because he voted to increase “below-the-line” education funding. That is money the Public Education Department can spend on particular programs, as opposed to providing the money directly to school districts through the state’s funding formula.

A vocal critic of Gov. Susana Martinez’s education initiatives – new teacher evaluations and letter grades for schools – Korte said she and like-minded West Side residents urged Pacheco to vote against increasing below-the-line funding during the legislative session earlier this year.

“He is a traitor to his fellow neighbors,” Korte told the Journal on Monday. Korte said she later took down the post because the letter had her address printed on it. Korte lives in Pacheco’s legislative district.

Pacheco did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

ESQUIVEL: "Calling a legislator a traitor is as disrespectful as can be"

ESQUIVEL: “Calling a legislator a traitor is as disrespectful as can be”

APS board member Marty Esquivel said Korte’s comments reflect poorly on the board. He said while board members can disagree with elected officials about policy, they shouldn’t be disrespectful.

“Calling a legislator a traitor is as disrespectful as can be,” Esquivel said.

Board member Don Duran said while he wasn’t aware of the incident, he thinks name calling is in poor taste.

“I think our job is to bring people together and to listen. Any time that we use words that degrade people, that doesn’t help,” Duran said.

Esquivel said it’s ironic that Korte chairs the board’s community relations committee because her “slash-and-burn” rhetoric discourages people with differing viewpoints from communicating with the board.

Korte disagrees. She said she is willing to have a dialogue with people, but most proponents of the governor’s educational policies are entrenched in their view, and she’s not willing to back down from hers.

Korte created more waves Tuesday when she sent an email to board members in which she called Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, “a Martinez sheep who is anti-teacher and anti-public schools.” Korte told the Journal she did so because she believes Cole supports the governor’s education policies.

The email was asking President Analee Maestas about the details of a meeting with Cole. Korte said she’s frustrated that Maestas didn’t share details of the meeting with all board members and said failing to doing so undermines transparency.

Maestas did not respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Cole told the Journal in an email, “It is painfully obvious how uninformed (Korte) is about both my and the Chamber’s work on behalf of Every Child in New Mexico.”

Esquivel took offense and defended Cole in an email response that went to all board members.

“Terri Cole has served tirelessly as President of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce through a number of governors – democrat and republican. … Speaking about Ms. Cole in this manner is very disrespectful and reflects poorly on APS if the Board countenances this type of irrational behavior,” Esquivel wrote.

Korte has had previous run-ins with other board members.

In April, she and Maestas traded barbs in emails over Korte’s participation in an advocacy group, Stand4Kids-NM, that has encouraged parents to opt their kids out of standardized tests. In December, Korte and Esquivel argued, again in emails made public, about a $1 million grant Superintendent Winston Brooks wanted to pursue. Korte opposed the grant.

Korte said the organization offering the grant, The Broad Foundation, “is a major culprit in the corporate takeover of public schools.”

Esquivel disagreed. He said the award is prestigious and rewards districts that improve student achievement while also reducing achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their peers.