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New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

PRESS RELEASE

April 16, 2003

New Mexico's Milken Recipients to Receive $25,000 Awards
At National Education Conference in Los Angeles


(Santa Fe, NM)- As public schools scramble to ensure that a "highly qualified" teacher is assigned to every U.S. classroom, hundreds of outstanding K-12 educators will join elected officials, policy leaders and other education experts at the 2003 Milken National Education Conference in Los Angeles on April 26-28 to explore ways to develop a first-rate national teaching corps.

In attendance will be Suzanne Harper, principal of Colinas Del Norte Elementary School in Rio Rancho, and Charlotte Begay, a family and child educator at Wingate Elementary School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Fort Wingate, recipients of 2002 prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards. They will receive $25,000 unrestricted financial awards for their recognition to use in any way they choose.

"Dedicated and talented teachers are the cornerstone of a quality education for our children," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis. "We value the outstanding work of inspiring educators like Suzanne Harper and Charlotte Begay as they help guide and ensure the success of future generations."

Respected as one of the premier seminars in K-12 education, the 2003 Milken National Education Conference will bring together key policymakers and state superintendents, past and present Milken Award-winning educators and other distinguished experts to engage in intensive workshops and professional development opportunities designed to propel effective teaching into greater student achievement. The conference coincides with the 20th anniversary of the release of "A Nation at Risk" - the landmark federal report that questioned public education's ability to prepare young people for the challenges of the 21st Century.

This year's session slate features:

  • A keynote presentation by former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett;
  • Moderated by philanthropist and education leader Lowell Milken, a panel including national radio host Tavis Smiley, reform advocate Jeanne Allen, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Education Nina Rees and Illinois Superintendent Robert Schiller will discuss ways to equalize educational opportunities for our nation's most disadvantaged youth;
  • A dialogue about the essential indicators of quality teaching with Stanford University's Eric Hanushek, Lee Shulman of the Carnegie Foundation, Herbert Walberg of the University of Illinois-Chicago and former Milken Educator and National Teacher of the Year Philip Bigler;
  • An interactive debate about whether "certified" teachers are indeed the most "qualified" to teach, featuring Arthur Wise of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and Michael Podgursky of the University of Missouri; and
  • The Fordham Foundation's Chester Finn outlining the ramifications of the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

The conference will culminate with the presentation of the $25,000 Milken National Educator Awards to 100 recipients from across the nation. Dubbed the "Oscars of teaching" by Teacher Magazine, this black-tie gala - featuring mistresses of ceremonies Jeri Ryan of Fox TV's "Boston Public" and Giselle Fernandez of KTLA-TV Los Angeles - honors K-12 educators and celebrates their achievements in true Hollywood fashion.

Cash awards totaling $2.5 million are attached to this year's Milken National Educator Awards, designed to recognize excellence in America's elementary and secondary schools and inspire young people to become teachers. Established in 1985 by education pioneer Lowell Milken, the program is the largest teacher recognition program in the U.S., having presented more than $46 million in awards to 1,877 educators in 46 states.

For more information about the 2003 Milken National Education Conference and the National Educator Awards program, please contact the Milken Family Foundation Department of Communications at (310) 570-4775, or visit the Foundation's Web site at http://www.mff.org.