SANTA FE—Thousands of educators from around the state descended on the Roundhouse Saturday to protest the educational policies of Gov. Susana Martinez and her Secretary of Education designee Hanna Skandera. Chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Gov. Martinez has to go,” approximately 3,500 teachers and their supporters marched from the Santa Fe Plaza to the Roundhouse.
NM AFT President Stephanie Ly speaks to the crowd as her daughter Addison peeks out beneath the podium. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com
The rally was organized by the state’s two educational unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) who represent not only teachers, but educational assistants, counselors, bus drivers and other school employees.
“This is a great turnout,” Los Alamos AFT President Ellen Mills said. “I’m so pleased to see this level of support for education in New Mexico.”
There was a definite partisan edge to the event and the anger the crowd felt toward the Governor and her administration was evident from the signs and chants. A number of Democratic legislators spoke at the rally.
“A reporter asked me if we had invited any Republican legislators,” NM NEA President Betty Patterson said. “I replied that we didn’t invite the legislators who are here. They wanted to be here because they are our friends.”
“We had great pieces of legislation and a budget ready to move forward,” NM AFT President Stephanie Ly said. “I thought maybe the Governor and the Republican legislators would do the right thing, but they sought to block every piece of positive legislation.”
“It’s time to send Skandera and Martinez to wherever the hell they don’t have kids,” Kathy Chavez, executive vice president of the NM American Federation of Teachers told the crowd.
“We are in a war for the very souls of the students we teach,” said Earl Wiman, member of the executive committee of the National Education Association and former Tennessee NEA president.
Wiman urged educators to take back public education from corporations and those supporting them in government who seek to take over public education in order to make a profit from standardized tests and privatization of school services.
“When we leave here, we must go back to the fight in the courts, in the street and at the ballot box,” Wiman said. “The hottest pits in hell are reserved for those lawmakers who are ruining the lives of our children.”
In Wiman’s home state, struggles over teacher evaluation similar to those in New Mexico have taken place. Tennessee has just removed test scores from its teacher evaluations, Wiman said.
“We know all students can succeed, but not in the same way on the same day,” Wiman said. “It’s stupid and crazy to judge a school or a teacher on a single day [of observation].”
A number of students and parents joined educators and teachers at the rally.
Shyla Archuleta, a high school student from Los Lunas who maintains a 4.2 GPA said she will not be receiving a diploma because she scored one point too low on standardized tests, in spite for her success in four AP classes and college scholarship awards.
“I’m not a good test taker, but I am a good student,” Archuleta said. “Why can’t I have one on one time with my teachers instead of spending 78 out of the 180 days I’m in school on testing. From the bottom of my heart, let’s stop testing and start learning. I’m a student, not a data number.”
Meanwhile, the Governor spoke in Albuquerque Saturday, promoting her own education agenda. A house committee headed off Martinez’s effort to mandate retention of third-graders who can’t read at grade level, when the bill’s sponsor altered her original bill to say struggling third-graders “may be” retained rather than “shall be” retained. The Governor said there’s still “plenty of time” to return to the original language.
Martinez also sought support Saturday for $1.5 million for parent portals to check student progress. This is one of a number of proposals Martinez has requested to be managed by the Public Education Department (PED). Arguments over whether PED or school districts should manage education funds, programs and policies is at the core of many of the disagreements between the Martinez administration and unions representing school employees, Democratic legislators, school districts and education activists.
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Senior Shyla Archuleta from Valencia High School in Los Lunas speaks to the crowd about how the current policies from the governor and Public Education Department have negatively affected her. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com
State Sen. Howie C. Morales reminds the crowd he will be running for governor against Susana Martinez in November. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com
State Rep. Sheryl Stapleton addresses the crowd in the Roundhouse. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com
Supporters listen to speeches from legislators who support the efforts of teachers and educators. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com
Students, parents teachers and school employees write messages on the AFT Promise wagon. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com