SANTA FE - Hanna Skandera, who has been running New Mexico's Public Education Department for 15 months without confirmation from the state Senate, will not get a hearing until at least January 2013.

Members of the Senate Rules Committee on Monday began off-session confirmation hearings, but the panel will not consider Skandera this year, said the chairwoman, Sen. Linda Lopez.

Gov. Susana Martinez's nominees for the state Parole Board, the Spaceport Authority and the Museum Board all are getting Senate hearings this week.

Skandera, though, is not on the Senate's list for a hearing nor will she be scheduled for the remainder of the year, Lopez said.

Lopez said a high-profile candidate such as Skandera would be considered only during a regular legislative session. That way the public has ample opportunity to attend the hearing or to comment, said Lopez, D-Albuquerque.

She said this system of evaluating cabinet members was a matter of tradition. No Senate rule prohibits Skandera from coming before the Rules Committee this year, then facing a vote of the full Senate when the 60-day session starts in 2013.

"Hearings are scheduled at the wish of the chair. This chair does not so wish" to consider Skandera until next year, Lopez said in an interview.

Martinez nominated Skandera to lead the Public Education Department after being elected in November 2010.

Skandera assumed the job in January 2011. But the Senate Rules Committee did not hold a confirmation hearing on Skandera in the regular legislative sessions of 2011 or 2012.


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The panel also declined to consider Skandera's nomination during a special 19-day session last fall.

While the legislative session was running full tilt this year, Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said he expected action on Skandera's nomination in "a day or two."

That was nearly three months ago, but nothing happened.

Sanchez, the Senate majority leader and a member of the Rules Committee, also said Skandera may not meet the criteria to preside over the Public Education Department.

She has never been a classroom teacher, principal or superintendent.

But Skandera, 38, previously held positions in the education departments of two large states, Florida and California, under the administrations of Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Under Skandera, New Mexico's Public Education Department has begun giving public schools grades of A through F. That law was championed by Martinez and approved by the Legislature in 2011.

Martinez and Skandera also have pressed for a law that would require schools to retain third-graders in the bottom tier of reading proficiency. Their proposal has failed in the Legislature during all three sessions since Martinez took office.

Martinez said the state is doing an injustice to thousands of its children through the practice of "social promotion." The term means that schools advance unqualified students to the next grade.

But state Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said states such as Florida that use forced retentions actually end up with more dropouts. Stewart favors spending a bit more to help young children become proficient readers, rather than changing the state's retention system.

New Mexico's current law allows parents to override a school staff one time if it wants to hold back a student. After that, schools can retain students without parental consent.

Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, has been among Skandera's more outspoken critics on school grading and forced retention of children.

But Morales, a leader in the Senate on education issues, may have staved off a Senate insurgence against Skandera last winter.

He said he would vote for Skandera's confirmation if her candidacy reached the full Senate. Morales said the governor deserves to pick her team, and not be undercut by senators.

If Skandera does not receive a confirmation hearing again next year, she would still remain in power. In fact, she could remain secretary of public education as long as the governor desires if the Senate never gives her a hearing.