Senate panel OKs school governance overhaul

February 12, 2014 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to weaken the governor’s power over public education cleared a Senate panel on Wednesday with Republicans objecting that it was a slap at GOP Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.

The Education Committee approved the measure on a party-line 5-4 vote, with only Democrats supporting it.

The proposed constitutional amendment would re-establish an elective state [auth] board of education to set public school policies and select a superintendent to manage the Public Education Department.

The measure would reverse a school governance overhaul adopted by voters in 2003 at the urging of former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson. The department was placed under the control of the governor, who appoints the agency’s cabinet-level secretary.

Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque said a 10-member elected board would provide more stability in school policies and prevent those from being turned over each gubernatorial election.

Supporters said the measure wasn’t aimed at Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, who’s clashed with Democrats and educational groups over administration policies such as a teacher evaluation system that’s heavily based on student performance on standards-based tests.

But Republican Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho disagreed.

“I think this is flat out about the secretary,” said Brandt.

The measure goes to another committee for consideration. If approved by the Senate and House, the proposal would be placed on the November general election ballot for voters to decide.

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