Moving Education Forward

The approach to fixing public education in New Mexico under the now exiting administration boiled down to nothing more than a money dump. After years of ever-increasing funding of education, the only result was a further decline in student performance. So, it is promising that Governor-elect Martinez has indeed taken a “bold” step in selecting as education secretary nominee someone with a track record of increased student performance:

Hanna Skandera “served as the deputy commissioner of education under (Florida) Governor Jeb Bush, where she promoted and implemented middle and high school reforms that instituted greater accountability, incentives for high performance and the end of social promotion,” a news release from Martinez’s transition team states.

“As a result of the education reforms put in place in Florida, reading scores improved dramatically across ethnic groups, with Hispanic students outperforming all students in 31 other states,” the release states.

It’s obvious this choice is making the status quo standard bearers nervous as their preferred mouthpiece for disseminating disinformation is already trying to limit the scope of change:

What the new secretary doesn’t need to do is drag moderate New Mexico into a needless, divisive and ultimately losing battle to impose school vouchers–or as they are euphemistically known–“school choice.”

We already went through that in the Guv campaign when Martinez was caught on video supporting vouchers, but later backtracked. As an outsider, Skandera is positioned to unite the education community. It would be a shame if she allowed ideological rigidness to derail that opportunity.

We don’t think she is going to go there, but we put the flag in the window–just in case.

C’mon Joe, stop trying to keep New Mexican kids down. Give parents and their children a choice when it comes to education. Public education was never supposed to be like a trip to the airport – a grin and bear it type of experience. Now, as full disclaimer, my kids are being educated in the public school system, and I’ve taken advantage of school choice. They’ve never gone to the schools they are “supposed” to attend by some arbitrary geographic determination. As involved parents we did our research and put them in schools that we thought best met their needs. Right now, that means they are both in a charter school. Why shouldn’t every other parent be allowed the same opportunity of choice that I have?

Before someone makes the comment that they do have the same opportunity, please note that’s not true. Many charter schools have waiting lists or lottery systems because there are only a limited number of seats. Do we really feel that the best way to determine which kids receive a quality education be determined by your place in line or the luck of a draw. Why are some people so eager to take choice off the table, or at the very least make it only an option for those with personal wealth, or good luck? Parental involvement is nearly universally agreed upon as one of the key foundations for education success of children. What’s more involving than parents taking an active role in choosing where their children go to school?

With New Mexico at the bottom of all education lists that measure performance, you’ve got to wonder what motivates anyone to fight for “moderation” as an approach to educational improvement? Thankfully, Governor-elect Martinez does not appear to share this view, and although it’s too early to tell what her education legacy will be, it’s great to see that this first step appears to be a departure from the status quo, and I for one say the more radical departure the better.

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