Panel OK’s state school board plan

Panel OK's state school board plan

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A push to undo a major change to how education is managed in New Mexico is moving forward in the Senate.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, is proposing a constitutional amendment to create a state school board that would hire a state superintendent for New Mexico’s schools.

Padilla’s plan is similar to the system New Mexico operated under before 2003. At the time, newly-elected Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson was able to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that effectively scrapped the board system and replaced the superintendent with an education secretary appointed by the governor.

Fifty-five percent of state voters approved the idea in a special election.

Now 11 years later, with Republican Susana Martinez in the governor’s office, some Democrats are looking for a do-over.

Under Padilla’s proposed constitutional amendment, the position of education secretary would no longer exist, replaced by a 10-member elected school board.

His idea passed out of the Senate Rules Committee on a party-line vote Friday morning.

Supporters say the current education system doesn’t have enough stability because policy can change dramatically every four years if a new governor is elected.

Opponents accuse Democrats of trying to change the constitution because they don’t agree with current Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera’s policies.

“The governor of New Mexico is directly accountable for public education so if folks are unhappy with education policy and want to change it, we have an election coming up in November,” said Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque.

Padilla denies it’s about politics, saying he’s trying to take politics out of education.

The proposal has one more committee hearing before the full Senate could vote on it.