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New Mexico Senate Democrats: PED Bullying Las Cruces Public Schools

Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia).

  Santa Fe, NM – Democratic Senators today spoke out strongly against the State Public Education Department’s (PED) recent move to strip the Las Cruces School Board of its authority over teacher evaluations and sick leave.  Senators said that PED had overstepped its legal authority in the case, and described PED’s actions as bullying tactics that have no place in New Mexico’s education policies.  On Wednesday the Las Cruces School Board rescinded its previously-passed resolution regarding how teacher absences will be counted for teachers evaluations after PED chief Hanna Skandera threatened a takeover of the school district by the State.

“PED has reached far beyond its legal authority to force the elected members of the school board of Las Cruces to carry out PED’s will.  This is unwarranted intrusion and interference in the matters of an elected local school board, and it is wrong.  I can only call this an outrageous power grab by unelected and unaccountable state bureaucrats,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia).  “PED is tearing up legal contracts to force teachers not to use sick leave they have bargained for successfully.  PED’s action is big government telling elected local officials what to do.  Ordinary citizens of New Mexico, and especially all those who regularly decry the intrusion of big government into our lives, should be very upset about what the Governor’s Public Education Department has done.”

PED is forcing the Las Cruces School Board to include teachers’ absences due to sick leave and personal leave in its policy of how teachers are evaluated at the end of the year.  The collective bargaining agreement between the school district and its employees – the teachers – stipulates that absences will not be part of teachers’ evaluations, however.  If a teacher missed a week of school during the year because of serious illness or surgery, or because of their child’s illness, they would automatically receive a low evaluation rating, according to PED rules.

PED’s threat this week to take over the Las Cruces School Board, unless it rescinds its teacher evaluation policy, directly contradicts PED’s own earlier instructions to teachers and school boards.  On May 3, 2013, PED Director of Educator Quality, Matt Montano, responded by email to a query by the American Federation of Teachers that “teacher attendance… is not required by PED” when local school boards are drawing up teacher evaluations guidelines.

“I am disappointed that the PED would choose to bully the second largest school district in the state rather than work with them.  The school board was trying to honor the negotiated agreement with the teacher’s union.  The PED has only succeeded in reinforcing the negative ‘us against them’ feelings that teachers have,” said Senator William “Bill” Soules (D-37-Dona Ana).

“During the recent legislative session we passed, and Governor Martinez signed, a strong anti-bullying bill to clamp down on bullying in the school yard and online. I think next year we may need a bill to stop the Governor and state education bureaucrats from bullying local school boards,” added Sen. Sanchez.