“Teachers union president sounds off”

On March 24th, American Federation of Teachers national president Randi Weingarten spoke at the New Mexico Roundhouse in a press conference, declaring, “No more cuts to education.” The Albuquerque Journal published an article about her statements and the response by the NM Public Education Department. This is my opinion sent to the Journal.

It is time for New Mexico to learn from the examples of the most effective educational systems in the world—Finland, Scotland and England come to mind—and have the New Mexico Public Education Department appointees work in concert with the elected representatives of the professional teachers’ unions: the National Education Association, New Mexico, and the American Federation of Teachers, New Mexico. Ms. Lida Alikhana, the latest in a constantly changing string of New Mexico Public Education Department spokespersons, accused the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten of “coming to New Mexico to grandstand. This is what New York union bosses do-parachute into states they know nothing about in an effort to score cheap political points. For all of the union lip service about local decision making, they never miss an opportunity to fly in from the East Coast and create a spectacle in front of the TV cameras.”

President Weingarten, a former attorney and New York City high school teacher, is one of the most highly respected experts on education both in the United States and the world. Because she travels extensively throughout the US, she is profoundly aware of the concerted efforts of national organizations to influence local education in this state as well as others. Witness the fact that Hanna Skandera was hired by Governor Martinez specifically to bring ideas from the Florida education system to New Mexico. This was despite the fact that local Republican (and Democratic) politicians suggested far less polarizing and just as knowledgeable nominees to be secretary of education. Since Secretary Skandera’s arrival, Florida has rejected and changed many of those old ideas.  Ms. Skandera was formerly head of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change (consisting of eight people), still an active participant in his Foundation for Excellence in Education endeavor, and is now the chair of the PARCC testing consortium, the latter position being ethically questionable since New Mexico PED is a client. Both FEE and PARCC’s stated purposes articulate their desire to impact every state (PARCC tests produced by global British company Pearson generate sizable profits). President Weingarten has visited New Mexico extensively over two decades and has studied our educational challenges—including poverty and high mobility rates among students– and victories in great depth.  Furthermore, the elected state representatives of AFT as well as teachers from across the range of New Mexican educational experience regularly communicate both face to face in multiple contexts and via a variety of media with President Weingarten. This is quite different than Secretary Skandera’s efforts to work “hand-in-hand with classroom teachers,” teachers who have all been handpicked by the PED, not elected as school or state representatives.

I believe that Secretary Skandera is sincere in her commitment to improve education in New Mexico. However, setting up numerous alternative teacher commissions and entities does not build the human capacity and investment in our children to the ongoing extent that working with our already fully committed unions can generate. Name calling union leaders as “bosses” and, in the past, “thugs,” is petty when union members are devoted, experienced proven educators dedicated to our New Mexican students. Accusing unions of only being concerned with adults and accusing a respected national union president of only coming to New Mexico to score cheap political points nurtures division instead of the unified purpose and vision that will help us raise up our educational outcomes in this state. The process of working together will only help each and every student to succeed.



80 days until the election . . . let’s learn from our children!

As a first time New Mexico State Senate District 23 candidate (Northwest Albuquerque), I am totally inspired to meet the thousands of voters in my district as I go door to door. This is grassroots democracy at its finest. Not only that, the basic human kindness and warmth embodied by the diverse residents I meet gives me tremendous hope for both the future of this state and the future of our country.

Several days a week I do lunch recess duty at my elementary school Today the second grade students I watch truly demonstrated hope for the future. African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Vietnamese and white, seven boys and girls played tag around one of our slides. Hilariously laughing together, cooperating as they worked out the rules for the day, these seven year olds modeled what we want our country to be, a place where equality, respect, appreciation, and joy underlie our daily work. The work of children is both school and play. Let us adults learn from our precious future leaders.

Put Joy in the Senate . . . New Mexico State Senate Distrcit 23!

I am running for New Mexico State Senate District 23 on the West Side of Albuquerque. Knocking on doors everyday, filling out dozens of questionnaires, recruiting volunteers, raising money–all because grassroots democracy rocks, and I believe I can make a positive difference in Albuquerque, in my community and in the state of New Mexico. Vamanos! Kapshida! Let’s go!

NM PED secretary Hanna Skandera continues effort to destroy teachers’ unions

I wrote the following letter to the ABQ Journal today:  NM PED Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera has joined three former and one current appointed state education heads in filing an Amicus brief to support the case of the Vergara v. California lawsuit.
Here is background: http://laschoolreport.com/supporters-of-vergara-lawsuit… .
Hanna Skandera has joined this lawsuit in her official capacity as secretary of education.
Who paid for the lawyers that prepared and filed this brief? What interests do they represent not only in California but in other states as well? At a time when there is a teacher shortage in many New Mexico districts and educators throughout New Mexico are struggling to meet mandates put in by rule and not by the State Legislature, how can such involvement be justified by the Governor? Ms. Skandera needs to listen to teachers in New Mexico instead of going back to California to join a lawsuit that seeks to destroy the professional unions that advocate for educators and the students and families they serve. This lawsuit and the involvement of Ms. Skandera is a deliberate arrow in the morale of teachers across this state and country. Shame on her.

http://studentsmatter.org/…/Amici-Brief-filed-9.15.15.pdf . Here is the brief on which Hanna Skandera is a co-submitter in her official role as NM PED secretary of education.

The PARCC test and its impact on students, families, educators and futures

As I continue to write my new book on education, I am researching the latest developments with standardized testing and how the Common Core State Standards, the PARCC test and the Smarter Balance test have driven an economic frenzy among educational publishing companies and investors who now believe that education is a prime field for investment. The PARCC consortium, made up of only 11 states and the District of Columbia has just finished meeting in Colorado about “cut scores.” I am focused on looking at the impact of the release of cut scores and the targeted publications and programs that will use those scores as a platform for new industry. http://parcconline.org/news-and-updates/325-setting-cut-scores

Break on through to the other side!

It’s time to let my renaissance, entrepreneurial spirit soar! Here I come, World! I want to leave you better than I found you, and I want all the people with whom I interact to know how unique, precious and valuable they are!

The Third Way

In politics, in life, in relationships, the third way, discussed widely in the writings of the late Stephen Covey, is an essential commitment. Not my way (or the highway), not your way, but a new way forged from discussion and dialog — a way that was never envisioned until we truly listened to one another with authenticity, love, honesty, an heart.

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