N.M. education official reiterates Gov.’s support for charter options

By | January 29th, 2013

In Albuquerque recently, I asked Leighann Lenti, director of Policy for the New Mexico Public Education Department, about rumored legislation that would restrict the expansion of charter schools. Here’s the question and her response…

QUESTION: “I have heard that there may be bills introduced in the Legislature to put a moratorium on charter schools, number one, and also to limit the availability of virtual charter schools. Would you care to comment on those efforts and how the Education Department intends to deal with those proposals?”

LENTI: “So I think the best thing I can say is what Gov. Martinez said earlier in the fall when she was speaking to our charters and those communities. She said that if a bill came forward in the funding formula that stifled the growth of effective options for parents she would not sign it and she would veto it. So I think that is a really strong statement that we are supportive of effective options and will do everything we can make sure those options get extended for all students.”

Here’s what Martinez said in her address to the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools at its annual meeting in early November 2012, which can be viewed online here

“I will not sign any legislation that unfairly cuts funding to charter schools or legislation that would limit new ones from opening.”

Lenti was interviewed Saturday night, after the National School Choice Week Whistle Stop Train Tour rolled into Albuquerque as part of a 14-city tour that began in Los Angeles and will conclude in New York City on Feb. 2.

During the program Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Tony Gerlicz, Director of Options for Parents at the New Mexico Public Education Department, read a proclamation from Gov. Martinez and Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera officially declaring the week of Jan. 27 to Feb. 3 as National School Choice week in New Mexico.

The event was hosted by the Rio Grande Foundation and cosponsored by Educate New Mexico, the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options, the event brought together parents, students, teachers and other advocates for school choice.

The well-attended rally featured speakers and testimonials from parents, students, government officials, and other advocates of school choice. Here’s what else Lenti had to say [see video above] in the interview.

“We feel it is critically important that all kids in New Mexico have the opportunity for a great education that prepares them for success in college and career after they graduate. Both the Governor and Secretary Skandera are supportive of effective options for parents. Tonight we had the opportunity to hear from several students that have been able to get great educations by exercising that option and we want to be able to extend that across the state so that all kids are set up for success.”

Lenti then outlined the Governor’s policy agenda on education:  1) early reading: ensuring that every student in the third grade can read at grade level, 2) making sure that teachers are rewarded through incentivized compensation and expedited advancement in the licensing system, and 3) creating better high schools for all students through replicated programs in Advanced Placement and “early college high schools.”