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Hannah Skandera Booted from Consideration as DeVos Assistant

March 24, 2017

According to Politico’s March 23, 2017, Morning Education, controversial New Mexico education commissioner Hannah Skandera will not be joining US ed sec Betsy DeVos in DC as assistant education secretary. (Note: A December 2016 Politico Pro article had Skandera under consideration for “deputy secretary or undersecretary.”)

The reason? Republicans are spooked by Skandera’s ties to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education may still be up for grabs after the Trump administration recently reversed plans to nominate New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for the assistant secretary job, POLITICO has learned. The administration’s decision to pull back an offer came after Republicans raised concerns about Skandera’s support for the Common Core standards. The offer appears to have been extended before Hill Republicans were consulted.

“About a dozen Republican offices were skeptical that they could ever vote yes” on Skandera because of her embrace of the standards, said a senior GOP aide. … Skandera, who sits on the governing board for the Common Core-aligned PARCC test, declined to comment.

Skandera not only “sits” on the PARCC governing board; she is the board chair, and under clandestine circumstances: PARCC did not formally offer a press release concerning Skandera’s replacing Massachusetts ed commissioner Mitchell Chester as PARCC chair. However, the PARCC website has Skandera listed as PARCC chair since January 2016.

The March 23, 2017, Politico article continues by referring to Skandera’s supposed “extensive K-12 and higher education experience” making her “a good bet for a federal job.” Given that DeVos’ only K12 experience appears to be mentoring some students who attended “public school” (no specifics provided as of yet beyond this DeVos talking point), Skandera might appear to be “experienced.” However, Politico glosses right over the fact that the New Mexico senate took four years to confirm Skandera because of the sticking point that the New Mexico constitution requires its ed commissioner to be a “qualified, experienced educator.”

According to Skandera’s New Mexico’s Public Ed Department (PED) bio, Skandera began above the classroom as a Hoover Institute fellow and continued floating above any substantial K12 experience as undersecretary of education in california under former Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. She continued her float to the US Department of Ed (G.W. Bush admin) and then headed for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s state department of ed as commissioner.

In Skandera’s case, it seems that being (again) catapulted to the top in New Mexico was enough to finally gain her a close confirmation. (The vote was 22-19.)

So, even though DeVos and Skandera both share close confirmation votes (DeVos’ was historical; 50-50 with VP Mike Pence breaking the tie), Skandera’s continued CCSS affiliation has her on the outs as a DC comrade for DeVos.

  Hannah Skandera


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

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  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Part of this I posted at Diane Ravitch. There I included the known “crony” positions a few with the bizarre title of “Confidential Assistant to the Secretary.” Then there is the official list posted at the USDE website as of March 24, 2017. This list is quite different from the cronies list–meaning Trump campaign workers and like-minded friends..

    Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
    Kathleen S. Tighe, Inspector General, Office of Inspector General
    Jason K. Gray, Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer
    Tim Soltis, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Delegated the Duties of the Chief Financial Officer
    Phil Maestri, Director, Risk Management Service
    Janet Scott, Director, Office for Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    James W. Runcie, Chief Operating Officer, Federal Student Aid

    All of the following positions at USDE are listed as vacant.
    Deputy Secretary
    Under Secretary
    General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

    Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director, Office of English Language Acquisition
    Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement

    Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Management
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education
    Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

    Director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
    Director, Educational Technology
    Director, Institute of Education Sciences
    Director, International Affairs Office

    Executive Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education
    Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
    Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
    Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
    Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

    Performance Improvement Officer

    On April 3, 2014 about twenty states will be submitting to USDE their ESSA compliance plans. I think these will probably be unopened and just sit “somewhere” because nobody seems to be in charge of Elementary and Secondary Education. These plans run 150 pages or more and are they are supposed to be “approved” by someone at USDE after they are thoroughly reviewed.

    It is Amateur Hour and “Ask a Trump Crony” time in this and other administative offices. These are the components of the “administrative state” that Steve Bannon and Trump intend to “deconstruct.” That destruction appears to be the job of the cronies, not people competent to make reasoned judgments.

  2. LA Educator permalink

    On the same day that DeVos was confirmed as head of USDOE, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky filed a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education effective December 31, 2018. I guess they are getting started early on the dismantling of this department by simply refusing to fill positions of leadership. Sad!!

  3. Linda permalink

    Skandera is a Fellow of the Gates-funded Aspen Pahara Institute. David Koch is on Aspen’s board. Harmony school’s CEO, Somer Tamir, is a Spring 2017 Pahara Fellow. Pahara was founded by the same person who founded New Schools Venture Fund- “marching orders…to develop diverse charter school organizations to produce different brands on a large scale.”

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  1. Mercedes Schneider on Hanna Skandera, Felled by the Common Core | Diane Ravitch's blog

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