(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Unbelievably, there are still Republicans who harbor the illusion that, if only they succumb to some of the demands for higher taxes, they can leverage that for government reform.
Those naïve enough to believe that meaningful reform is achievable under the current conditions should take a lesson from the events of last week.
Senate committee hearings were held on two education reform bills sponsored by Assm. Debbie Smith (D-Las Vegas), AB225 and AB229.
Don’t be fooled, these two bills represent very, very modest education reforms. Among the changes these proposals would make would be to force non-performing teachers to essentially re-earn tenure, to abolish the last-in, first-out (LIFO) system of determining the order of layoffs and toughen some disciplinary measures.
The ability to force a tenured teacher back to probationary status may seem like a drastic and beneficial change. But the consequence is that the law would allow bad teachers to remain in the classroom for years after the district had identified them as being poor performers, condemning scores more children to fall behind their peers.
Furthermore, this provision could be overridden by collective bargaining. That’s not a law, it’s a suggestion. Guess what the first item for discussion will be when contract negotiations begin.
Virtually everyone opposes the LIFO system for deciding which teachers are laid off. Everyone except the teachers unions, that is. It is an abomination that forces school districts to get rid of good, enthusiastic, young teachers while keeping others for the sole reason they had been there longer.
Each easily passed the 42-member Assembly with “No” votes in the single digits.
However, the teachers union expressed their opposition to these measures. In Senate committee hearings last week, they lobbied successfully to preserve the ability to cancel certain reforms through collective bargaining and to kill the effort to remove the LIFO system for determining layoffs.
In addition, citing due process concerns, they campaigned against stricter disciplinary measures and essentially argued for a system in which a teacher arrested for child pornography on Saturday night could be back in the classroom on Monday morning. If ever one needed evidence they put the concerns of teachers ahead of the welfare of students, this was it.
The result is that what were initially very modest reforms are even more watered-down and still may not survive. In this atmosphere, with the current composition of the Legislature, expecting tough reforms of government is beyond naïve.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)