Senate Confirms Kurt Steinhaus 37-4 As Public Education Secretary

Sec. Kurt Steinhaus


Kurt Steinhaus was confirmed by the Senate today as cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Public Education Department following his appointment in August by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.   “Secretary Steinhaus is exactly the advocate that schools, educators, kids and families need and deserve. He has spent his entire career dedicated to improving educational outcomes in New Mexico and is uniquely qualified to lead the Public Education Department. It is clear that he has the respect of educators, stakeholders and advocates from around the state,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

 The floor vote was 37-4 following a 9-2 vote earlier in the day by the Senate Rules Committee.

 Since taking the helm six months ago, Steinhaus has launched New Mexico’s Year of Literacy, worked with tribal leaders on the state’s response to the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, created advisory programs for teachers (State Ambassadors) and community members (the Secretary’s Community Advisory) and shaved the agency’s vacancy gap by filling 33 empty positions.

 “It’s an awesome opportunity to help provide leadership across New Mexico. It’s a job I’ve been working toward my whole career,” Steinhaus said. “As secretary, I consider it my responsibility to serve as the state’s instructional leader and chief executive officer for education while working closely with school leaders and the community and setting a tone and defining the strategic direction for student success.

 “My goals are to involve teachers, other education leaders, tribal leaders, the legislature, students, and universities as partners in identifying the path forward and in measuring progress. I also want to establish a broad-based coalition to support every single child in the areas of well-being and academic achievement. I want to support our teachers and all the staff who are part of the education system. And I want to do all that while building essential relationships within the Public Education Department and across the state, including legislators and deans of colleges of education,” Steinhaus said.

“I believe in the abilities of our students and staff. I support the hard-working and dedicated team at the Public Education Department – a continuous improvement agency. Together we can meet the incredible challenges facing our schools. I believe in the strength of New Mexico’s diverse communities and in the inherent value of our multilingualism, reliance, creativity, culture and compassion for one another,” he said.

Steinhaus came to the cabinet position following a lengthy and distinguished career in New Mexico public education, most recently as superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools, the position from which he retired in May. 

He began as a classroom educator, teaching from 1976 through 1988 at Alamogordo Public Schools, where he also served as a department chair. 

Between 1988 and 2008, Steinhaus served in various challenging roles at what was then the state Department of Education and later the Public Education Department. His titles at the state agency included director of educational technology, director of the state data management unit, chief information officer, assistant superintendent for accountability and information services and eventually deputy secretary. In that final role he managed the multibillion-dollar agency budget and contributed to a new state pre-K initiative. 

 Steinhaus also directed education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory for nine years – some of them overlapping his service at the state agency.

 Steinhaus holds master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, in science, and Eastern New Mexico University, in music, as well as a doctorate of education from the University of New Mexico, where his dissertation was about statewide intervention strategies for educational technology in New Mexico schools.

 “We are delighted at the action to confirm Kurt as secretary of Public Education. He fits the mold of what is needed for New Mexico schools and comes from our New Mexico school superintendent ranks, which makes him uniquely qualified to serve as secretary,” said Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders and the New Mexico Superintendents Association.

“Dr. Kurt Steinhaus’ nomination and confirmation as secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department is well deserved,”  said MaryBeth Weeks, president of the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association. “I have known Dr. Steinhaus for many years, beginning in the Los Alamos Public Schools, and consider him to be a strong advocate for public education. Dr. Steinhaus has shown himself to be thoughtful, receptive to feedback from diverse perspectives, and dedicated to the success of public education at all levels. I am confident he will continue to be a leading voice within New Mexico’s education community.”

Steinhaus, 67, succeeds Ryan Stewart, who served for two years before resigning at the end of August for family reasons.