Governor vetoes 3rd bill to keep her education chief's powers intact
Gov. Susana Martinez
made it a clean sweep Friday, vetoing a third bill that would have
reduced the powers of her education secretary-designate, Hanna Skandera.
Martinez vetoed a bill by Rep. Mary Helen Garcia to make the state Public Education Commission an autonomous operation, rather than an elected group that is subservient to Skandera.
With the governor’s veto, Skandera maintains her authority to overturn the commission’s decisions on charter school applications.
Garcia, right, got her bill through the Legislature despite heavy opposition from Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Many Democrats have questioned Skandera’s qualifications to run the state’s public school system, prompting Republicans to rally to her side.
Garcia said it made sense for 10 elected members of the Public Education Commission to rule on charter school applications.
“Decisions like these should not be influenced by the politics of the PED,” said Garcia, a retired teacher and school administrator.
“I am concerned that, by creating an independent PEC and removing the secretary of the Public Education Department from the chartering process, the bill seriously undermines the existing separation of powers and the internal system of checks and balances,” she said in vetoing the bill.
The governor also cited a state law that says, “It is the secretary's duty to manage all operations of the department and to administer and enforce the laws with which he or the department is charged.”
They would have created councils of school experts to revamp the state’s A-F grading system for its 830 public schools and its evaluation system for teachers and principals.
Skandera, 39, is in her third year as secretary-designate of public education. She has not been confirmed by the state Senate as the department cabinet secretary.
State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, finally called Skandera this year for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee.
But after 10 hours devoted to whether Skandera should remain or be fired, the committee never took a vote. Lopez recessed the hearing indefinitely because she said she wanted committee members to review more records on Skandera’s administration of the department.
Skandera remains with full powers in her $125,000-a-year job, but still has the temporary title of secretary-designate of public education.
Martinez has been critical of Lopez for failing to complete Skandera’s confirmation hearing, calling the process protracted and unfair.