(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Democratic candidate for governor Rory Reid took his education reform plan to northern Nevada today, calling for a fundamental change to give principals, teachers and parents a much bigger say in how their schools operate.
Reid said his plan would transition every school in Nevada to an “EDGE” school where community-based decision making would lead to improved student performance. EDGE stands for Economic Development through Great Education.
Reid said in his plan principals would have control over curriculum, staffing and scheduling and discretion to spend more pupil funding on the best programs and services for students. Teachers would have more freedom in the classroom as well.
Reid also said in an interview today with the Nevada News Bureau that he supports open enrollment, whereby parents would be able to move their child to another public school if their local school was failing.
“Parents should be able to vote with their feet if they believe that a school isn’t serving their child’s needs,” he said.
While supporting competition among public schools, Reid said he does not support the idea of voucher schools, where parents would receive tax dollars to enroll their children in private schools.
“I think vouchers, frankly, are a political gimmick,” he said. “They take money from one system and give it to another.”
Reid’s position on vouchers sets him apart from the three major Republican candidates for governor. Governor Jim Gibbons, former North Las Vegas mayor Mike Montandon and former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval have all endorsed the voucher school concept.
Gibbons had asked the Legislature via Proclamation in the special session that concluded March 1 to consider a voucher school proposal, but there was never a bill introduced and lawmakers adjourned without addressing the issue.
Montandon said today there are challenges in crafting a voucher bill to get around the limitations on using public tax dollars for private schools, but that such challenges should not stop elected officials from trying.
“It’s the only way teachers will ever get paid what they deserve,” he said. “If there is competition with private schools to get the best teachers, we don’t even need to discuss merit pay.”
Reid said his EDGE plan is revenue neutral and would generate additional classroom dollars by reducing the amount spent on administration. He noted that Baltimore’s school reform program was initiated with $165 million in central-office budget cuts, of which $88 million was diverted to local schools.
Reid says his plan, a year in the making, borrows the best elements found in magnet, empowerment, charter and traditional public schools. The key to a school’s success are principals who are given the power to lead, teachers who are freed from arbitrary regulation and parents who are engaged, he said.
Successful schools are also critical to the state’s efforts at economic growth and diversification, Reid said.
“We’re never going to have a strong economy unless we have strong schools,” he said. “They are linked.”
While there might be some opposition to his plan, Reid says Nevada’s public education system is broken and needs to be fixed, and that his plan will accomplish this goal.