Taos teacher wants to be lieutenant governor

By Cody Hooks, The Taos News
Posted 1/12/17

Jeff Carr, a Taos teacher and eight-year member of the state’s elected education commission, will run for lieutenant governor of New Mexico in 2018.

Carr, a Democrat, said in his Dec. 5 announcement that he would “endeavor to serve the people …

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Taos teacher wants to be lieutenant governor

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Jeff Carr, a Taos teacher and eight-year member of the state’s elected education commission, will run for lieutenant governor of New Mexico in 2018.

Carr, a Democrat, said in his Dec. 5 announcement that he would “endeavor to serve the people of New Mexico as an active [lieutenant] governor who will fight for public education, job creation, our environment and move our people out of poverty.”

“For me, education is the center. All the other factors that we need to take care of in this state — child poverty, minimum wage, energy, the environment and criminal justice — all come into play [with education],” Carr, who bills himself as “a proud and true progressive,” told The Taos News in a Dec. 9 interview.

Carr is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Army National Guard and is a longtime and active member of the Democratic Party. He chairs the Colfax County branch of his party and has served as mayor pro tem and as a municipal judge in addition to his eight years on the New Mexico Public Education Commission (PEC), the body of elected officials primarily charged with granting, renewing and revoking the charters (or guiding documents) for state-level charter schools.

The candidate has been a history teacher at Taos Academy (a school chartered by the PEC) for three years, though he plans to retire at the end of May. He also taught at Taos High School for 14 years, with a total of 27 years in public education.

“I’ll miss working with students every day, but I won’t miss the testing and the evaluation system. I won’t miss the belittlement of teachers over the last few years, especially under the [Gov. Susana] Martinez administration,” he said. “It’s hard for that not to filter down to the children. I want to turn that around. Treating people with respect and dignity doesn’t cost anything.”

While the 2018 race for governor has attracted lots of attention from around the state — with U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham announcing she would run, while U.S. Sen. Tom Udall cleared up rumors of a possible run by saying he wouldn’t — the race for lieutenant governor has been quiet.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run independently in the primaries. The winners of those races run jointly in the state’s general election in November 2018.

“The whole system of education needs a strong look,” Carr said. He supports a temporary moratorium on granting new charters for schools at the state level, he said, because neither the PEC nor the Public Education Department (PED) have the staff or resources to oversee charter schools properly.

The idea of a charter school moratorium isn’t a new idea. It’s been floated at past meetings of the Legislature and is again being proposed for 2017. The New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools lists 100 charter schools in New Mexico. Taos has six — three authorized by the local school board and three chartered through the PEC.

He also said he’d like to see the PEC “go back” to a state school board, which would have the power to hire a state-level superintendent to manage the PED. At the moment, the secretary of education is appointed by the governor. Martinez appointed the current education secretary, Hanna Skandera, in 2011, though the Legislature didn’t confirm that appointment until 2015.

Changing the role of the PEC “is an important measure to depoliticize education in New Mexico,” he said.

In 2016, Carr campaigned for a seat on the Colfax County Board of Commissioners that is held by Republican James Landon Newton. Carr garnered 39 percent of the vote in the two-way race.

As for the race for lieutenant governor, “It’s a completely different animal.” Carr and any other candidates for the office won’t have to officially file until 2018, but he said he’s “getting out there early” because he’ll have to raise a lot of money to mount a successful campaign. Since his announcement last week, Carr’s already made appearances at both a county- and state-level meeting of Democrats.

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