Stand4KidsNM: State Education Policy Critics Gagged And Silenced

Sep 24, 2014

Credit Simon Thompson

Krazy Kathy Korte, that is what some are calling the Albuquerque mother and outspoken critic of education policies developed by the Martinez administration.

Korte’s advocacy group Stand4kids New Mexico has put education at the center of the November election. But a Republican lawmaker has filed a complaint against the group’s conduct with the Secretary of State.

Kathy Korte was elected to the Albuquerque Public School board, right after Susana Martinez became governor and began her campaign to overhaul public education.  

“When she came in it was exciting for me, I supported the governor and was very excited about a change” she says.

Once Korte saw their how the policies were being rolled out and how they were affecting her own children., she and her school board voiced their concerns to the Public Education Department.   They oppose what they call the state’s excessive testing and they question the validity of the teacher evaluation system.

The board requested a review of the policies. But Korte says the Public Education Department ignored the concerns of school boards throughout the state and steam rolled ahead with the overhaul.

“So I  took  it to the parents that I know. I said guys you need to help me,  because this is bad. I had a lot of meetings in my homes with these parents explaining everything. It is so complicated of an issue." she says.

And Korte says parents didn’t like what they were discovering about their children’s education.
The group swelled into 'Stand4kidsNM’, a statewide movement and social media campaign, to oppose what they see as corporate standardization and an overemphasis on testing.

Yes! I am crazy... in love with my kids and I am going to fight for what I want them to have in school"

And that’s when the Public Education Department started pushing back. Korte says the department disputed claims Korte made in a letter to a lawmaker circulating an official rebuttal to teachers, superintendents and school boards across the state.

“People are starting to call me, Kathy did you know your letter! These are people in Deming, people that I knew on the school board down in Las Cruces.” she says.

Korte says if it was intended to quell public disapproval of the education overhaul, it didn’t have that affect .

“That is what caused the facebook page to explode, it was that letter. People didn’t know who I was  until they got this letter in their email, saying who is Kathy Korte ,they googled me hit the facebook page and learned  about a rally that we were having.” she says

As the movement has become bolder Korte says she’s had to endure the backlash of her critics.

 “I can’t even repeat the names they call me" she says "I am out of control, emotional, wacky, crazy with a K; krazy" Kathy Korte, yes I am crazy in love with my kids and I am going to fight for what I  want them to have in school”.

A Washington, D.C., GOP opposition research group recently began looking into Korte requesting information from her.

And Republican state representative Monica Youngblood filed a complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State.  Youngblood did not respond to an interview request but in an email to the Secretary of State Youngblood alleged that the Stand4kidsNM group is in violation of the campaign reporting act, stating that the group “Raises, collects, expends or contributes money or any other thing of value for a political purpose... advocating the election of Gary King”, all without registering as a political action committee.

Korte maintains the group is non-partisan and has not made contributions to Gary King’s campaign.  Secretary of State spokesperson Ken Ortiz says the complaint is still being evaluated.

Korte says it is just another attempt to distract and intimidate.

“They won’t address the core issue,  so instead they are going after me personally” she says.

Korte says attempts to discredit and silence opponents have helped to publicize the Stand4kids organization.  But at the same time….she says they are using her as an example of what happens to vocal opponents.

"I’ll be damned if anybody tries to bully me into quiet and submission" she says. "If I am a voice for a lot of  people who are afraid  then so be it, I'll be that voice, I don’t mind being that voice. There are a lot of people who are afraid " she says.

"It’s like you know what, if you don’t agree with this then you ought to have the ability to say that, without being scared that you are going to be fired” she says. 

Korte is pushing for a new Public Education Department secretary , a moratorium on testing and a research review into the cost and effectiveness of state standards with her hopes pinned to Gary King’s win in the gubernatorial race.