Skandera, right, may be the governor's most controversial nominee
After 2-year wait, Hanna Skandera to face Senate committee
The long wait is almost over for New Mexico’s public schools chief.
After more than two years on the job, Hanna Skandera is scheduled to receive a confirmation hearing Friday morning from the Senate Rules Committee.
Skandera, 39, then would face a vote by the full 42-member Senate that afternoon. Democrats control the Senate 25-17.
Never a classroom teacher or principal, Skandera was selected by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in 2011 to head the state Public Education Department.
The Rules Committee, which screens appointees for cabinet positions, did not give her a confirmation hearing in 2011 or last year.
Skandera has been the point woman for a number of Martinez’s high-profile initiatives, including grading schools and state-mandated retentions of third-graders not proficient in reading.
The school grading system received legislative approval two years ago, but now is being challenged by state Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, as inaccurate and unfair. His bill to scrap the current grading system cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
As for the retention bill, companion versions of it have been blocked this winter in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Andy Nunez, a former state representative from Hatch, said he planned to testify on behalf of Skandera. Nunez said the Senate might reject her, but he would be in her corner.
Skandera’s critics include state Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, chairwoman of the House Education Committee.
“The problem with the governor and the secretary is that they are not educators,” Stewart said earlier this year after Martinez called for merit pay for teachers.
Skandera’s resume contains lots of stops before New Mexico. She was CEO of Laying the Foundation, a training program for teachers in grades 6 through 12. She was executive vice president of Academic Partnerships of Dallas, an organization that helped universities devise online academic programs.
She served as deputy chief of staff to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, undersecretary for education in California under then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and in the education department of then-governor Jeb Bush of Florida.