Hanna Skandera, Undersecretary of Education??
According to the December 15, 2016, Politico Pro, controversial New Mexico Commissioner of Education Hanna Skandera “is under close consideration for education deputy secretary or undersecretary in the Trump administration.”
The New Mexico Senate took four years to confirm Skandera, and it was a close vote: 22-19. Skandera has never taught, an issue that arguably violates the New Mexico constitution, which requires the state’s ed secretary to be a “qualified, experienced educator.”
However, in the world of ed reform, it’s who you know, and if you can get your non-teaching foot in the door and hold it there as ed sec “designee” for years, then it is indeed possible to be tagged as an “educator” by a state senate majority.
But let’s turn our attention to Common Core.
If Trump is supposedly against Common Core, one wonders why he would choose a woman who is currently the chair for one of the two federal-fund-established Common Core testing consortia, PARCC.
Politico Pro states that Skandera “took over as head of the governing board for the PARCC test” in January 2016. Strangely, when Skandera “took over,” PARCC decided not to announce it. It turns out that I announced it in this January 19, 2016, post when I realized that the PARCC website slyly changed the identity of the PARCC chair from Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester to Skandera.
Under Skandera, PARCC is in the process of having an identity crisis and trying to remake itself.
Skandera has been a member (and once head) of Jeb-Bush-created Chiefs for Change. Interestingly, her position as chair of PARCC has been excluded from the site’s bio:
It’s as though PARCC (and Skandera’s involvement in it) simply do not exist:
In December of 2010, Governor Susana Martinez nominated Hanna Skandera to lead New Mexico’s public education system of over 830 schools and more than 330,000 students.
From the start, with Governor Martinez’s support, Secretary Skandera’s vision for the students of New Mexico has been unwavering: to ensure that every child, regardless of background, is provided with the opportunity to receive a world-class education in New Mexico’s public schools. Her conviction that all children have the potential to achieve and to excel has fueled her passion for reforming the educational opportunities that New Mexico students and families have today.
Prior to her current position as New Mexico’s education Chief, Secretary Skandera’s record of service in the education sector includes serving as Florida’s Deputy Commissioner of Education for former Governor Jeb Bush, senior policy advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education under former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and Undersecretary for Education for former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in addition to teaching Education Policy courses at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.
She has also served as CEO of Laying the Foundation, a national teacher training program for English, math, and science teachers in grades 6-12. Secretary Skandera earned a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University, a Bachelor’s in Business from Sonoma State University, and was a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
However, there she is on the PARCC website:
PARCC Governing Board Members
- Secretary Hanna Skandera, Chair — New Mexico
- Commissioner Katy Anthes — Colorado
- Commissioner Kimberley Harrington — New Jersey
- Superintendent Hanseul Kang — District of Columbia
- Superintendent Karen Salmon — Maryland
- Superintendent Tony Smith — Illinois
- Commissioner Kenneth Wagner — Rhode Island
Skandera has served as a faithful follower of Jeb Bush, who was for Common Core until it just became too costly for his presidential hopes. Then he called it “poisonous.” Still, Skandera continues to be very much involved in Common Core as PARCC chair.
As for vouchers: The only ones notably associated with Skandera have been questionable travel vouchers connected to Jeb Bush’s organizations, as the March 2013 San Francisco Reporter notes:
Skandera has been a contentious figure for her educational reform ideas. But this week, a different issue came up: Skandera’s frequent out-of-state trips, many of which are funded by nonprofits that contract with PED [NM Public Education].
Travel vouchers—obtained from the state Department of Finance and Administration via a public-records request by the union-funded Independent Source PAC—show that Skandera has traveled to various locations around the country and internationally during her two years in office.
Often, her travel is paid for by groups like the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, which advocates for the same education reforms—charter schools, third-grade retention and A-F school grading—that Skandera is pushing through in New Mexico.
Although many of the trips aren’t costing New Mexico taxpayers a dime, and travel isn’t uncommon for high-ranking officials, critics say the fact that state contractors are paying for them may compromise Skandera’s integrity.
If Trump chooses Skandera for a deputy ed post, given her controversial background, she should fit right in, weakly-concealed PARCC leadership and all.