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PED sued after ignoring two open record requests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Education Association New Mexico has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Public Education Department to comply with three open record requests, according to the teachers union.

“To date, the Public Education Department has ignored two of the information requests. The third request was answered by a two-paragraph response that disproves their own assertion that previous teacher evaluation systems were broken because ninety-nine percent (99 percent) of teachers were deemed satisfactory,” NEA-New Mexico said in a news release.

The union has taken issue with comments made by Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, in which she said that under the state’s previous teacher evaluation system, 99 percent of teachers were rated effective and that it had to be replaced because it was too lenient to be meaningful.

The response the PED provided to the union didn’t make sense, said Charles Goodmacher, NEA-New Mexico’s director of government relations.

While the union asked for proof that 99 percent of teachers were rated effective under the former evaluation system, the PED provided information regarding the percentage of teachers who moved up a tier in New Mexico’s three-tier licensure system, which is another matter altogether, Goodmacher said.

The response calls into question whether the PED has data to back up Skandera’s statement that 99 percent of teachers were rated effective under the old system, Goodmacher said.

“We offered to meet with the NEA and they have responded that they only intended to discuss bringing litigation against PED,” spokesperson Larry Behrens said. “It’s unfortunate that the NEA does not feel the same sense of urgency over our student achievement. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further on politically motivated legal matters.”

The two other record requests concerned Teachscape – the software program used to support New Mexico’s new teacher evaluation system that was put in place last year.

One of those requests asked for correspondence between the PED and school districts. The other asked for correspondence between the PED and Teachscape.

The union also issued a news release Friday noting that it would announce a separate lawsuit Monday, in which it will charge Gov. Susana Martinez with creating an “illegal evaluation process.” The union did not release a copy of its complaint Friday but said it would on Monday.