Hanna Skandera can finally remove the word "designate" from her title as the state's secretary of education.
Democratic state Sens. Pete Campos, D-Colfax; Phil Griego, D-Santa Fe; Mary Kay Papen, D-Doña Ana; John Arthur Smith, D-Doña Ana; and Benny Shendo, D-Bernalillo joined 17 Republican senators in voting for Skandera's confirmation Monday afternoon.
Skandera won the confirmation on a 22-19 vote. One Democrat, state Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto, D-Bernalillo, recused himself from the vote. Ivey Soto, an attorney, represents a charter school involved in a lawsuit that he says puts him in conflict with making decisions involving the Public Education Department.
The vote came after a nearly two-hour debate on the floor and just hours after the Senate Rules Committee cleared the way for the full body of the upper legislative chamber to confirm Gov. Susana Martinez' education chief Hanna Skandera, who held the post for four years with the title secretary designate.
In committee, Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Cibola, became the only Democrat who voted this afternoon to send her confirmation to the full floor of the Senate, which gives up or down votes on executive cabinet members. Sanchez voted against her confirmation on the floor.
Since Republican Gov. Martinez appointed Skandera as the education chief, her
—teacher evaluations, not allowing children to move past the third grade if they cannot read at grade level,
, supporting online schooling and charter schooling—have attracted fierce opposition from teacher unions.
Her confirmation failed to clear the Rules Committee after a series of contentious hearings in 2013, followed by another failed attempt by the committee in the last legislative session. Lopez, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 2014 race, has come under sharp criticism for holding up the confirmation.
Democrats again didn't pass on the chance to grill Skandera, with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Bernalillo, questioning whether Skandera's Public Education Department attempted to kill an investigation into the Southwest Secondary Learning Center, an Albuquerque charter school raided by FBI agents last summer. Skandera said she'd get back to Sanchez with an answer.
"There is a general attitude that exists that teachers are the enemy," said Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Bernalillo, who took aim at PED's spokeman and the governor's political machine, which recently worked to defeat Albuquerque School Board member Kathy Korte, a vehement Skandera critic whose husband Tim the administration
from his job as a spokesman for two state agencies in the run-up to the election.
"I would implore us," Candelaria said, "...as a body and a state that if we're truly serious about being nonpartisan and bipartisan, to stop the negative rhetoric, to stop the insults and to stop using bully political tactics [at anyone who] dare disagree" with those policies.
In closing remarks, Skandera defended her policies and highlighted what she said were some of the department's successes, including increased participation and success among Hispanic students on advanced placement tests and that the state has been number one in the nation for high school graduation rate improvements. (Last year's high school graduation rate of 68 percent is a 1.5 percent
from the previous year, however).
Skandera said that the state needs to not only measure student and teacher success by collecting data, but also by doing something with the data.
"I stand here today believing that we do need to measure whether we are going forward," she said, echoing a talking point her boss Gov. Martinez, frequently invoked on the campaign trail, "not going backwards."
Joey Peters contributed to this report