(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – The secretary of the U.S. Department of Education has told the Gibbons Administration the language proposed by the Nevada state teachers union to change a state law to make the state eligible for as much as $170 million in federal school improvement funds is “not optimal.”
Stacy Woodbury, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, had a conversation with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday and communicated the conversation to Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of a legislative panel that oversees federal stimulus funding in Nevada.
Nevada is not now eligible for a share of the “Race to the Top” funds because of a state law passed in 2003 that prohibits student performance to be used in the evaluation of teachers.
Gibbons said he will call a special session of the Legislature by June to change the law to make Nevada eligible for the funds. Gibbons wants the law repealed in its entirety.
The Nevada State Education Association has published draft language that would change the state law to allow local school districts to negotiate the use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers.
Lynn Warne, president of the union, said the language was drafted with the assistance of the staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and would not have been proposed if it was not believed to be acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education.
Woodbury said she advised Duncan of the proposed teacher union language, who then replied that it was not optimal. She said Duncan believes that student achievement scores should be a major factor in evaluating teachers.
Woodbury said today that Duncan did not say the teachers union solution was absolutely incompatible with obtaining Race to the Top funds.
But if using student performance data to evaluate teachers is considered a good way to improve education in Nevada, why not just repeal the law, she said.
The issue should not be about doing the bare minimum to become eligible for the funding, Woodbury said.
“It should be about making our educational system better for our kids,” she said.
The Nevada Legislative Committee on Education on Friday will hear from a representative of the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the teachers union and others, on the Race to the Top funding issue.