The Sandoval Education Reform Plan
(Jim Clark) – Last week the Bonanza printed a guest column by Cindy Reid, wife of Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Rory Reid, written in response to my June 26 column in the print edition of the Bonanza titled: “Dissecting Rory Reid’s education plan.”
Her column was a response, not a rebuttal, since I had earlier expressed my admiration (and that of many Republicans) for her husband’s education proposals. Her purpose was to inform readers of the experiences she and Rory shared in bringing the plan into existence. It’s nice to know that a single small voice in Incline Village can be heard in top Democratic echelons in populous Clark County.
In the mean time Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Sandoval has issued his education plan for Nevada. It encompasses the main proposals of the Reid plan (funding based on number of students; merit pay for teachers; if students fail fire teachers & administrators; evaluate schools/teachers based on improvement in student performance; test to pin point remediation needs; school choice; no new taxes; and better use of existing funding) but goes quite a bit further.
The Sandoval plan would additionally: (1) abolish social promotion, (2) expand visual and distance learning opportunities, (3) provide merit pay for both teachers and principals, (3) assign letter performance grades to schools, (4) establish a Nevada Charter School Institute to depoliticize granting of new charters, (5) privatize services such as cafeterias, facilities management and human resources, (6) reform Nevada’s teacher licensure laws so more professionals can enter the field and (7) implement a voucher program which would allow parents to send their kids to any school of their choice.
Incline’s Willy Krusell is deeply interested in education policy. Although he and I disagree on International Baccalaureate for Incline in that he opposes the program without even trying it, he has carefully studied a Florida success story that’s worth telling. In 1998 students in both Nevada and Florida averaged an identical and abysmal 206 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (“NEAP”) reading exam. By 2009 Nevada had inched up to 211 but Florida students had improved to 226 . . . the average fourth-grade Florida student was a full grade level ahead of Nevada’s.
How did they do it? In 1999 newly elected Republican Governor Jeb Bush ended 122 years of Democratic control of the Florida state house and implemented an education reform program featuring: virtual schools (currently over 80,000 students), charter schools (currently over 350), a corporate-tuition scholarship program (currently 23,000 low-income kids), a privately funded scholarship program (currently sending over 20,000 special needs kids to public or private schools of their parents’ choice), a system for grading schools, elimination of social promotion out of third grade, and a path for alternative teacher credentialing for motivated adults. The most impressive improvements were demonstrated by Florida’s low income and minority students; currently they tie or outscore, on average, all students in 14 other states, including Nevada.
In evaluating this new approach to education policy Nevada Policy Research Institute writes: “No single silver bullet exists for improving education but this cocktail of reforms has produced amazing results for Florida students across the board.”
Mr. and Mrs. Reid should be commended for authoring an innovative and exciting approach to education reform but their plan is several measures short of the successful Florida program. Sandoval’s plan, however, follows the old Nevada custom of: “I’ll see your bet and raise you.”
(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)