Monday, November 28, 2016

Source: Skandera Education Era Set To End; Controversial Cabinet Secretary Expected To Depart By Year's End, Plus: Zeroing In On The Zia Poll  

Hanna Skandera
One of the more polarizing figures in the recent history of state government appears to be headed toward the exits. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera could be gone by the end of December, according to one of our Senior Alligators monitoring developments inside the education department. "She could leave as soon as Dec. 18th," he reports.

The word comes in the wake of President-elect Trump's appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos, an outspoken advocate for charter schools, has close connections to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who Skandera served as Deputy Commissioner of Education.

The DeVos appointment would seem to clear the path for Skandera to get a job in DC. It would be a return trip for her. She was Deputy Chief of Staff to Education Secretary Margaret Spelling in the George W. Bush administration.

Skandera has been the highest profile cabinet member of the Governor's administration, aggressively pushing a reform agenda that has faced strident opposition from the education community, especially her move to implement teacher evaluations, third grade retention and the grading of the public schools.

Third grade retention has failed to pass the legislature, but the school grading made it through. The teacher evaluations adopted by Skandera continue to be challenged in the courts.

While Skandera's foes have cast her as the boogie man, she drew wide encouragement and praise from the GOP base and the business community where her popularity remains intact. Her supporters argue much of the blame for the state's failure to advance in the rankings is due to a reform-resistant Democratic-controlled state Senate.

The six year run of the Martinez-Skandera agenda appears to have had limited impact on the state's traditionally poor performing public schools. In the most recent WalletHub national rankings of "School System Quality" New Mexico placed 50th.

The state ranked 49th in the nation in Quality Counts 2016, the annual report from the Education Week Research Center. However, while still suffering from a low high school graduation rate, New Mexico has seen some improvement in the category.

At 43, Skandera is in the middle of her career but she will no doubt look back at her New Mexico stint as one of her most challenging. As she does the curse of former NM Territorial Governor Lew Wallace may come to mind: "All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico."

Hasta luego, Hanna.


A number of readers have asked about that new polling outfit that popped up in the middle of the election. One of the common inquiries is whether the Zia Poll is independent or partisan? Well, we have some details.

The parent company of the Zia Poll is Dialing Services LLC out of Roswell. That is the same company that owns GOP Calls and has the same physical address in Roswell. The team listed on the Zia Poll is identical to the team on GOP Calls which says on its website:

We have provided automated calls and political calling solutions for prominent political leaders and advocacy groups including: Romney for President, The 2000 & 2004 Bush/Cheney campaigns, the 2000 & 2004 Texas Victory campaigns, Senator Pete Domenici, Congressmen Pete Sessions, Heather Wilson, and countless others. Our track record and experience speaks for itself.

The Zia Poll is open about its association with Dialing Services. The poll primarily uses robo calls to landlines and tries to reach cellphone users--who can't legally be contacted by robo calls--to get them to volunteer to take the poll.

In its last poll of the season Zia boasted of surveying over 8,000 voters the Sunday before the election. That poll was was released the next day--the Monday before the election. Despite the large sample the poll missed the mark, giving Clinton 45.9 percent to Trump's 43.9 and Johnson with 6 percent. Zia Poll then posed the question: "Could New Mexico be a toss-up?" No, it never was.

Clinton beat Trump here 48.26% to 40.04% and Johnson received 9.34%. The Zia Poll's margin of error was put at only 1.8 percent so the miss was notable.

Meanwhile, the ABQ Journal's Research and Polling survey conducted Nov 1-3 and released the Sunday before the election had Clinton leading Trump 45 to 40 percent, with Johnson at 11 percent. Pollster Brian Sanderoff did not wonder if the race was a toss-up:

New Mexico has been solidly blue in the past two elections, and it appears Clinton is maintaining her lead here this election cycle, unlike in some battleground states, such as Ohio or Nevada, where she is either trailing or in a dead heat.

The Journal polled only 504 likely voters but about half the calls were to voters with cellphones and half to landlines. The poll's margin of error was 4.4%

This is not to say the Zia Poll and Dialing Services LLC are trying to put one over on anyone but in the media reporting of their poll findings there was no mention of their deep ties to the GOP or much comment on their over dependence on landlines in the cellphone era. Both are significant facts to know in analyzing their results, and now they have been mentioned.

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