Skandera hearings still in the air
Cheap shot journalism is tempting as the New Mexico Legislature draws to an end this week with several key issues unresolved as this is written.
Before piling on let us recognize Santa Fe, unless you are a snow buff, is not much fun in winter. So hats off to our House and Senate members who gather there to ponder the heavy issues facing New Mexico.
There is no lack of serious pondering. Money is tight, the water meter is stuck on “parched,” we have an educational system whose leaders seemingly bump into themselves as they wander around in the dark, there is a large population of illegal immigrants for whom some of us seek a path to citizenship while others chant “send them back!”. The chance to at least get a state vote on the Early Child Development program, if it happens, seems reasonable.
“Compromise” was a keynote theme but it sometimes turned out one woman’s compromise was another man’s hanging noose. Gov. Susana Martinez offered a compromise on the illegal immigrant driving issue. Trouble is, illegal immigrants who drive to their work, their church, their kid’s softball game, would not have been able to drive. So much for that.
There has been so much falderal about New Mexico education it is hard to tell an eraser from a slide rule. Here is my idea, but, buyer beware, it comes from the dad of a career teacher. Pick 10 teachers from diverse areas of the state. Affluent schools. Schools where a neighbor has to bring the first grader to class because dad is in jail and mom is on drugs. Lodge them at a semi-swank hotel and take notes as they speak for three days. Hire a professional moderator to run the discussion. Listen. Learn. Follow up.
Some years there are so many candidates for Dunce of the Session, it is difficult to choose. Certainly, there were obvious nominees this season. Republican Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad embarrassed herself and the state by introducing legislation that could potentially jail rape victims. It turned out Rep. Brown did not support such nonsense, but simply did not pay attention to the language in her own bill. Lesson is, if you are going to introduce it, you had better understand it.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque angered many when he spoke against a bill to increase penalties for crimes against children, including injuring a child while driving drunk, child abuse and rape. Ortiz y Pino opined increasing penalties would hardly be a deterrent because “these are acts of passion, of momentary insanity, of craziness.”
Please, senator. If that is the criteria for criminal punishment, you can just throw out penalties for a whole lot of crime in our society.
This year’s top Dunce of the Session Award, though, has to go to Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat, who took a very serious matter, confirmation of Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, and turned it into a carnival dunking booth.
She might just as well have brought to the Skandera hearings a wire cage, set Hanna on a perch, and let the parade of witnesses aim softballs to dump her into a tank of water roiled by ravenous Democratic carnivores.
This is one of New Mexico’s enduring embarrassments. Skandera has held the job two years and our Senate cannot bring itself to either reject her or confirm her, preferring instead to use her as a political pawn.
Frankly, I don’t know if Skandera is the best fit for education secretary. That’s a decision for the Senate. It’s their job. Hopefully, by the time this is published, Lopez will have stepped up to the plate.
Ned Cantwell welcomes response at firstname.lastname@example.org.