New PED secretary Steinhaus, high aspirations, few specifics, laudable approach on poverty

The Albuquerque Journal had two front-page stories in Sunday’s paper interviewing Gov. Lujan Grisham’s new PED secretary Kurt Steinhaus. You can find them HERE and HERE.

As usual, especially from a Democratic administration that desires and generally has the political support of the unions, it is a mixed-bag. Steinhaus states early on in one article, “I want us to be fastest growing in the country is in student achievement.” That is a worthwhile goal, but he offers few specifics as to how he plans to actually reach that goal.

Interestingly, Steinhaus speaks favorably of “short cycle assessments.” That means testing along the lines of what was considered controversial under the Martinez Administration.

He discusses charter schools (New Mexico’s most notably form of “school choice.” And, while he doesn’t seem to oppose them, he tempered his support saying, “we have to be thoughtful about the impact it has on the rest of the schools and the community. If it impacts funding in a negative way, we’ll have to sit down and look and see if that’s being helpful or if it’s getting in the way.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement or call to improve the existing law in order to make them an even better option.

Steinhaus doesn’t have a strong position on “social promotion” one way or the other.

Finally and to his credit, Steinhaus seems unwilling to use the cop-out that New Mexico kids can’t learn due to poverty. He specifically draws a distinction between poverty and literacy problems and discusses ways in which the system can help impoverished children.

Broader school choice policies or COVID policies like masking in classrooms were not discussed in the interviews.