(Jim Clark) – Is the Democratic Party changing its stance on education? Previous Bonanza articles described former Washoe County Schools Superintendent Paul Dugan praising Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Rory Reid for his proposal to decentralize Nevada schools and transfer budgeting as well as hiring/firing authority to school principals. Reid’s education plan, called “Leading Edge Schools”, would make most right wing Republicans stand up and cheer if they didn’t know who the plan’s author was.
In fact Reid’s plan sounds almost identical to the education reform proposals outlined in “Making Schools Work” by William Ouchi of the UCLA Graduate School of Management. Professor Ouchi’s proposal (and Reid’s plan) works like this:
1. school funding would be based on the number of students (the present Nevada Plan works that way on a district by district basis yet within districts per pupil funding can vary widely);
2. premium pay for teachers who volunteer to work at underperforming schools;
3. if students fail fire the teachers;
4. evaluate schools and teachers based on improvement in student performance;
5. use tests to improve early remediation and
6. offer free school choice.
What Reid’s plan envisions is “empowerment” schools, a concept adopted in 2007 by the Nevada Legislature due to efforts of Governor Jim Gibbons (R – NV), hence a term not
popular in liberal professional educator and teacher union circles. Indeed Reid is not alone in the Democratic Party in espousing proposals from the GOP education plank. Since poorly managed schools adversely impact minorities more than whites Democrats representing urban areas are becoming strident about demanding improvements in public education.
Illinois State Senator James Meeks (D-Chicago) introduced a voucher bill for low income students as did Pennsylvania Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Anthony Williams (D – PA). An organization called Democrats for Education Reform supports school choice, charter schools, getting rid of bad teachers and reforming or ending tenure and seniority. And in Florida nearly half the Democratic members of the state legislature voted to expand a school voucher program for low-income kids.
In Nevada, however, Rory Reid may be a bit ahead of the Democratic Party consensus. On his web site he criticizes the Nevada State Senate Majority Leader, a fellow Democrat, stating: “To create a better accountability system Rory’s plan will evaluate schools and teachers on student improvement, not performance snapshots, as Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) has proposed…”
And in Reno last week Reid crossed swords with state teacher union leaders by firmly stating that in his endeavor to improve public education he will not raise taxes. Speaking at a round-table discussion at Swope Middle School Reid told teacher union officials: “I have described how (improvements in education) can occur in the budget neutral way. You can innovate without significant cost.”
The union, of course, advocates demanding money from the legislature without specific goals, planning to figure out later how to spend it. Teacher union president Lynn Warne said she will talk to Reid about raising taxes when the time is right. “It is a conversation Rory and I need to have at another time” Warne said.
She didn’t do him any favors by that public utterance. The day after Nevada’s Primary Election the Rasmussen poll showed GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Sandoval leading Reid 54% to 31% so you can understand Reid’s angst (in pursuit of votes and campaign contributions) at having to diss his own senate majority leader as well as lecturing the reliably Democratic teacher union about spending restraints.
Which leads me to again pose this fundamental question to Candidate Rory Reid: “With your great and innovative ideas for public education . . . wouldn’t you rather be a Republican?”
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)