First District Judge Francis Mathew ruled Monday against the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) in its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the National Education Association- New Mexico (NEA-NM).
The NEA-NM lawsuit, which seeks to nullify the Teacher Evaluation system imposed by the PED was filed in September, 2014. The lawsuit claims Secretary Skandera has usurped the authority of local school districts in an unconstitutional move to determine evaluation policies and procedures. While no date was set for the trial, the Judge ruled the parties may proceed with discovery.
Today’s ruling brings us “one step closer to where we can do our jobs for our students without micro-management,” said Las Cruces teacher Deborah Romero, a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. “As a union of education professionals, we are deeply committed to the success of every student. We hope to undo the great harm being done to New Mexico students by this evaluation system. It overtests students and is causing excellent teachers to leave the profession,” notes Betty Patterson, NEA-NM President.
“These regulations are so stringent they are causing superintendents to prepare to terminate teachers they don’t want to terminate,” noted Todd Wertheim, Attorney representing NEA-NM. “It removes the ability of a teacher to interact on their evaluation with his or her professional employer, as opposed to a faceless bureaucracy in Santa Fe,” adds NEA-NM Executive Director Charles Bowyer.
This ruling comes on the heels of an earlier win by NEA-NM that the PED violated the “Inspection of Public Records Act” when it failed for many months to disclose data to prove a statement that the teacher evaluation system put in place under the Richardson administration had failed because it determined that more than 99% of all teachers were proficient. In that ruling Judge Sarah Singleton stated, that in addition to the failure to respond to the records request, “. . . what I believe is that you have a very important statement that has been made, and you really have no basis that you can document for that statement. . .”
“We are optimistic we will prevail in this latest effort. We have to win this for our students,” adds Patterson.