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Hanna Skandera Stars in a Walton-Funded Video

April 30, 2018

The 74 and the Walton Foundation have produced a 6-minute video in which former New Mexico school chief, Hanna Skanera, discusses “Raising the Bar: A Conversation on Education in America.”

The video can be viewed at the end of this post.

Skandera resigned as NM ed superintendent in June 2017, and she is currently in no noted position of ed reform leadership. Her exit as NM chief was just that– and exit. She did not leave NM to assume another post.

However, nine months later, in March 2018, Skandera appears in a video purportedly to explain how “education will save America.”

The producers of the video are careful to avoid referring to Skandera as “former” NM school chief, instead using the title “New Mexico Secretary of Education, 2010 – 2017”– seven years– even though Skandera was not confirmed until February 2015— which means that for most of her time in the position, Skandera was “secretary designate” and not “secretary of education.”

it is not as impressive to note the truth:

Hanna Skandera, secretary designate, 2011 – 2015; secretary of education, 2015 – 2017.

The truth makes Skandera’s brief stint as NM secretary of education parallel, well, a Teach for America (TFA) classroom stint. Two years, then gone. Of course, such a speedy exit is not the TFA goal for ed admin, only their K12 classroom teachers.

Governor Susana Martinez appointed Skandera to the position of ed secretary in 2011 (ostensibly in hopes of a timely senate confirmation that took four years to occur), and it was Martinez who officially announced Skandera’s resignation (without explanation) in June 2017.

skandera martinez

Hanna Skandera and Susana Martinez. Photographed on Sunday April 2, 2017, by Adolphe Pierre-Louis, Albuquerque Journal

By June 2017, the Martinez-Skandera honeymoon was over.

Nine months later, in March 2018, ed reformer Skandera became an unattached face of Walton.

It seems odd that the Walton Foundation would front the necessary bucks to have a former ed sec in a video promo–a video promo that says nothing of substance regarding American education, at that.

What the video noticeably omits is that school choice is the answer. There is only one mention of the term, “choice” and no mention of the terms, “charter schools” and “vouchers.” Nevertheless, Skandera does use the term “ed reform” a few times close to the conclusion of the video.

Also near the end of her speech (4:43), Skandera seems to be apologizing to parents and students on behalf of ed reform for trying to do ed reform without involving them. Even so, for the most part, Skandera’s speech comes across as a clouded bumbling of rehashed, ed reform talking points.

From Skandera’s last minute (4:43 to 5:47):

Our next step, when I think about education reform, where are we going next in education reform? We’re going to build on that solid foundation, and we’re going to do a way better job of connecting to real-life issues and needs, in our economic and workforce needs, and our employers, and what our country needs when it comes to the kinds of jobs that are in our future.

We have not been responsive, both to our kids and parents, and we haven’t been responsive to the ultimate future of where our kids go and how they contribute in their communities, and their states, and in our nation.

It is time for education reform to wake up and acknowledge foundation is important. We can’t let it go, but it is strictly foundation. We’ve got to, if you will, build the house, and the house has to recognize kids cannot graduate from whatever education they are pursuing and not be prepared, and not meet the needs of their communities and what our country needs in regards to jobs and workforce.

Skandera’s slight acknowledgement of disappointing parents and students fits with a lesson the Waltons are learning and relearning, though it seems to be a difficult reach from billionaire ed reform heights to connect with the acted-upon locals.

In March 2017, the Waltons received from paid consultants a report on why Question 2, a Massachusetts ballot initiative on raising the charter school cap, was soundly rejected in November 2016 despite the heavy spending by out-of-state, billionaire charter proponents, including the Waltons.

One of the findings in the Walton-funded, “where did we go wrong?” Question 2 study was that charter opponents had a better “ground strategy.”

Somehow garnering that elusive, unable-to-be-purchased, grass roots support for school choice is a Walton priority, as noted in its October 2015 Grantmakers for Education report:

One area where the Foundation has received criticism is in the area of community engagement. It has been accused of having a top-down approach that does not adequately address the needs and desires of parents, local advocacy groups, and community groups. This is an issue the Foundation is grappling with.

Perhaps this video is an attempt for the Waltons to try to connect with across-America grass roots that they were baffled to discover could not be bought in the state of Massachusetts.

Perhaps the video is an attempt to keep an estranged ed reformer visible so that another state might find a place for her in ed-reform leadership.

Perhaps it is both.


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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. When I spoke in New Mexico a few weeks ago, I devoted many hours to reviewing New Mexico performance and teacher evaluations.

    The latter are in court, enjoined for now.

    NAEP Scores are a disaster. NM vies with MISS as lowest performing state in the nation. No improvement during Skandera tenure.

    I will send you the speech.

    NM has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, 5 percentage points higher than Miss.

    But she did nothing about that. Just testing, charters, VAM. NO IMPROVEMENT.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Lisa M permalink

    Ready to pile on the next set of reforms. We broke it on purpose and now we need to fix it and refix it ….. When will these greedy cockroaches crawl back into the dark and leave our kids alone.

    • Duane E Swacker permalink

      The edudeformers and privateers already fired the first shot across that bow about a year ago with a conference in Kansas City entitled “Failures to Fixes”. Needless to say, the “failures” were due to bad implementation, not due to bad policies and practices endorsed by the edudeformers and privateers without the input of the teachers. And the edudeformers and privateers now needed to come up with the “fixes” and had to have the teachers better implement said “fixes” than they did the deforms to begin with. What a joke of a conference that was. Of the 15 or so participants I counted two that had any K-12 teaching experience whatsoever and that was for a total of 7 1/2 years. Yep, and these folks had all the solutions for the supposed problems of K-12 public education and were going to save Amurika. . . again!

    • That has been the truly confusing and endlessly played game in our district: invasive test-score-blame reforms fail, and so must be “fixed” — and then they fail again and must be “re-fixed” — and not surprisingly nothing changes for the good so what the public is told is that things once again need to be “re-fixed.” At what point does this lucrative “fixing” game become obvious to all? School reform has nothing to do with social accountability, but everything to do with the remunerative invasions attached to a neverending “testing accountability.”

  3. Jack permalink

    First off, the Walton’s are the scum o’ the Earth. Everything and every discussion pertaining to them should immediately flow from and be based on that one, incontrovertible, irreducible premise.

    They treat their employees like sh#%, and pay their employees like sh#%. That’s the model they want to expand to our current public school system, via privately-managed so-called charter schools controlled by the Walton’s. Their entire education policy — the including the idiotic notion of evaluating teachers based on test scores — is geared towards this privatization, and replacing qualified, trained, veteran teachers with the teacher-equivalent — the the Walton’s teacher equivalent, which is not a real teacher in any way, shape, or form.

    No parents want their teachers treated and paid the way the Walton’s do, and that’s for a whole host
    of reasons — first and foremost, it’s out of concern for their children, as that special Walton-style toxic treatment of their children’s teachers will negatively impact their children. Secondarily, they care about their kids teachers, quite apart from the destructive effect a Walton-style school management has on teachers, and yeah, students.

  4. campak14 permalink

    The opening line… setting up children for success… what does that mean? From a radical behaviorist standpoint it means more radical behaviorism and more behavior modification. You will not develop innovative, creative thinkers through current ed-reform curricula frameworks because that requires autonomous learning pathways within rich learning environments where abundant curricula and time-sensitive emergent curriculum can be practiced by expert teachers who know much about trans-disciplinary connections to children’s learning interests. Ed-reform kills creativity.

  5. So a “better connection” to parents and community is the catchphrase for the rapidly disintegrating corporate education reform movement. “Connection” is not an acceptable substitute for democracy; it is the language of manufacturing consent to create the illusion of public control. The elite techocratic reformers have, for decades now, searched for ways to pass off their policy ideas as belonging to the public. They stole the New Orleans schools three months after Katrina while 90% of the parents were still displaced.

    We don’t want a “better connection”: we want our schools back. This Skandera video is just a shameless attempt by the Waltons to make excuses for another failed free-market model reformer. The electorate don’t beleive that billionaires have the right to run our schools. Great wealth does not bestow greater rights. This is a democracy; get over it.

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  1. Hanna Skandera: Her Consulting Firm and Her Mystery “Initiative” | deutsch29

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