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A lawsuit filed by Democratic legislators and a teachers union asks a court to block the New Mexico Department of Education’s new system for evaluating public school teachers’ performance.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the lawsuit filed Friday in state District Court in Albuquerque contends that parts of the department’s rule conflict with state law and are illegal.
Department spokesman Larry Behrens calls the suit a delay tactic that harms public school students.
Behrens also notes that the state Supreme Court previously rejected a challenge to the rule.
“This lawsuit rehashes the same tired arguments the Supreme Court rejected late last year,” PED spokesman Larry Behrens told the Journal. “We will fight yet another tactic to delay because we understand that 300,000 New Mexico students deserve better.”
Attorney Shane Youtz represents the plaintiffs. He says the new suit is narrower.
The suit cites provisions of the rule allowing charter schools to apply for waivers and for personnel other than principals to observe teachers in the classroom.
Educators allege that Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera violated her statutory authority by promulgating the PED’s teacher
State House Representative Sheryl Williams-Stapleton, State Senators Linda Lopez and Howie Morales and a contingent of educators have filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus against Skandera, seeking to invalidate the PED’s teacher evaluation policies that she enacted without legislative approval.
According to the lawsuit, Skandera surpassed her authority in promulgating the rule because the language of the rule conflicts with the plain language of New Mexico’s School Personnel Act. According to the act, there must be a “highly objective uniform statewide standard for evaluation” of teachers.
While public school districts are required to use the new evaluation system, charter schools may apply for a waiver, creating distinctly different systems for evaluating teachers.
“Educators support teacher accountability and evaluations. As professionals, we want to learn and grow and provide all of our students with the best opportunities. But this rule isn’t aimed at promoting useful professional feedback for teachers. Its aim seems to be to drive teachers away from public education by creating a false accountability systems focused on shame and blame,” AFT NM President Stephanie Ly said.
In 2013, educators and lawmakers worked to pass a different evaluation system through the legislature but it was vetoed by the governor.
“Governor Martinez and Secretary-Designate Skandera have ignored the voices of students, parents and educators. Meanwhile educators are demoralized and leaving the profession, and it is our students who are losing out.” Ly said.