(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – The work on a budget deal continues and late-night action in the Senate signaled an agreement may be in the works.
During a session that lasted until midnight Monday night, the Senate passed 2 bills that would likely be part of any deal between Governor Sandoval, Republicans and Democrats.
The Senate passed two education reform bills, AB225 and AB229, which had been opposed by the state teachers union. These proposals passed the Senate by wide margins, 18-3 and 20-1, respectively, despite being strengthened by amendments added since the bills were approved by the Assembly. While the versions emerging from the Senate are improved they are far from perfect.
AB225 requires that a teacher who has received unsatisfactory evaluations for 2 consecutive years will lose tenure. A provision in the original bill allowing it to be overridden by collective bargaining was removed. The removal of this loophole was staunchly opposed by the teachers unions.
AB229 changes the probationary period from two years to three years and does not allow any years to be waived. Currently most teachers receive tenure after just one year. In most cases the second probationary year is waived. This would prevent that from happening in the future.
This bill also gets rid of the last-in-first-out method of determining the order of layoffs, a method that is opposed by virtually everyone except the teachers unions. The requirement that seniority be the only criteria for deciding the order of layoffs would be replaced by a to-be-determined method to include performance evaluations, difficulty in filling the position, disciplinary and criminal records and other factors.
Under AB229, each school district would have to create merit pay procedures. It would also expand the grounds under which a teacher may be fired.
While these reforms fall far short of what needs to be done, they do constitute steps in the right direction. The fact that the NSEA opposes these bills but they still passed so overwhelmingly is a good sign. Other reforms, such as allowing parents to choose their children’s school, are still necessary.
All Republicans voted for both of these bills and only Sen. Michael Schneider (D-Las Vegas) opposed AB229. Schneider has on multiple occasions introduced bills that would require the state to increase funding for K-12 education to the national average. Rather than fix the problem throw money at it.
Also Monday night, AB299, the low-cost auto insurance bill that would have created policies for low-income people subsidized by other auto insurance policyholders, died as it did not achieve passage in the Senate by yesterday’s deadline.
There is still much in the way of reform that is necessary. Discussions continue regarding reform of collective bargaining, reform of PERS/PEBS, additional education reforms and reform of prevailing wage laws.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)