Last night, three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in New Mexico debated, and the woeful state of education was a major issue. All three pledged to reverse the policies of Hanna Skandera, who was brought to the state by conservative Governor Susana Martinez to impose Jeb Bush’s punitive Florida model of high-stakes testing for teachers, Common Core, and choice. After seven years in office, Skandera stepped down and was replaced by a TFA alum, Chris Rutkowski.

I spoke in Santa Fe a few weeks ago and told a large audience that New Mexico is at the very bottom of the nation on NAEP, vying with Mississippi for 50th, but #1 in child poverty, 5 percentage points worse than Mississippi. During Skandera’s seven years, she targeted teachers as the biggest problem and imposed a harsh teacher evaluation system that is currently tied up in court. During her tenure, New Mexico did not see any improvement at all on NAEP, not in any grade or subject. The Florida model failed.

Her successor hailed the teacher evaluation system, which found more than 30% of the state’s teachers “ineffective,” but he did not suggest where the state might find new teachers if he fired them all (which he can’t do since the whole evaluation program has been enjoined by a judge). The state has low salaries and a teacher shortage. Punishment is not the appropriate response from the top education official.

The problem in New Mexico is not teachers but poor leadership and a lack of a positive vision to solve the state’s problems and improve the lives of families and children.