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Skandera possible pick for U.S. education secretary

SKANDERA: We want to be competitive

SKANDERA: We want to be competitive

Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s public education secretary, is reportedly under consideration for a top education job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Politico reported Friday that Skandera, who has sparred with teachers unions and drawn criticism for her support of the PARCC standardized testing system in New Mexico, could be offered a job as education deputy secretary or undersecretary of the department. Skandera told The Associated Press two weeks ago she had not been approached about a job in the Trump administration, but that may have changed. A Skandera spokesman declined to comment Friday.

The New Mexico education secretary – a staunch supporter of charter schools – toured one such school at Jemez Pueblo on Friday with U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr.

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In August, Skandera said she was encouraged by signs of progress in New Mexico’s K-12 education system, although the state typically scores poorly on measures related to public education compared with other states.

“New Mexico’s progress has been good overall, particularly among districts that embrace reform,” Skandera said. “I’m very encouraged. On all measures, we are seeing the improvements.”

The Democratic Party of New Mexico said it was worried about the possibility of Skandera working in the Trump administration.

“Skandera has a history of pushing policies that take valuable instruction time out of the classroom, excessively test, and have pushed many of New Mexico’s educators out of state or into early retirement,” said Debra Haaland, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. “Gov. Martinez’s appointment of Skandera was the wrong choice for New Mexico, and consideration of Skandera for a Trump administration post is wrong for the country.”

Hopeful: New Mexico’s Democratic U.S. senators seem to be keeping an open mind about President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Department of Interior.

Trump this week announced he will nominate U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., a former Navy SEAL and current representative from Montana, to lead the agency that oversees federal lands, some energy production and Native American policies. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, who both denounced Trump’s choice of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy, took a more conciliatory approach to Zinke’s nomination.

“I look forward to meeting with Rep. Zinke and learning more about his plans to safeguard America’s public lands, promote outdoor recreation and protect tribal sovereignty,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, who sits on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which will conduct Zinke’s confirmation hearing. “I also want to be sure that Rep. Zinke will join me in resisting recent calls from extreme interests to auction off Western public lands or abolish our national monuments.”

Zinke has pledged not to support the sale of public lands.

“The sale or transfer of our land is an extreme proposal, and I won’t tolerate it,” Zinke said in a June news release.

“As a senator from a Western state where hunting, fishing and other recreation are central to the economy, I feel strongly that we need our interior secretary to fight to defend our nation’s legacy of keeping public lands in public hands for the benefit of all Americans,” Udall said.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said Zinke has been “a partner on many legislative and regulatory issues impacting New Mexico and the West” and called him a “wise choice” to lead the department.

Michael Coleman: mcoleman@abqjournal.com

 

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