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May 3, 2015

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Nevada Territory

Education reform bills split Democrats, pass Assembly

Assembly Democrats on Monday split over a pair of major education bills that would make it easier to fire teachers and extend the probationary period for new hires from one year to three years, which advanced despite opposition from the state teacher's union, a traditional and powerful Democratic ally.

Republicans joined the Assembly leadership in passing Assembly bills 225 and 229. Eight Democrats voted against one bill, nine Democrats voted against the other bill.

AB 225 would require that a teacher or administrator who receives unsatisfactory evaluations for two consecutive years be placed back on probationary status.

AB 229 would make a number of changes, including:

• School districts would switch from a binary “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” evaluation system for teachers and administrators to a four-tiered system of “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective” or “ineffective.”

* Allowing teachers to be suspended, dismissed or fired for “gross misconduct.”

• Change the probationary period from one year to three years.

• Require districts to implement a plan to pay teachers for performance.

Both bills will now go over to the state Senate.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, compared this to “landmark legislation” passed in other states, like Colorado. Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said it would help reward good teachers and make it easier for ineffective teachers to seek improvement or force them to find a new line of work.

The bill was fought from the left, but also called a “tiny baby step” by Republicans, who want so-called education reforms to go further before they consider raising taxes.

Smith spent more than a year holding education discussions with business groups, school districts, teacher’s unions and reformers.

“Only a handful of states have passed bills like this,” she said.

The teacher’s union had been negotiating to reach a compromise, but ultimately was against the bill.

“Quite honestly we believe this is anti-union legislation dressed up as education reform,” said Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association. “It takes away workers' rights ... Basically, the newest workers in the profession are at-will employees.”

On the opposite side, Republicans said this was only the beginning of reforms that should pass this session.

“This is a tiny baby step in where we need to go,” said Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said, “This body now has put its foot in the pool of reform and found the water just fine.”

Assembly Republicans have issued a list of five areas where they want to see traditionally conservative changes to law, one of them being education. In exchange for that, the caucus leader said, they would consider extending about $600 million in higher taxes that are set to expire, or “sunset,” starting July 1.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has promised to veto any tax increase, and doubled down last week by declaring he wouldn’t trade taxes for anything. Democrats and school officials have criticized the cuts to education as too severe. His budget calls for a 10 to 12 percent cut to teachers' salaries.

The Assembly Democratic caucus met for more than an hour behind closed doors before the vote. Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said there is no great rift in the caucus over the bills.

“I don’t think there’s a split as far as concept goes - we all want more accountability, a better process, more oversight,” he said. But “there are definitely limits to where Democrats are willing to go. Maybe you saw that today.”

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  1. A lot of good idears...
    Most of which most teachers would likely support.
    But, paying teachers "by performance" is going to be a sticky wicket.
    Finding a workable system is going to prove elusive.

  2. Again, the brunt of all of this falls onto the teachers, the very people who must teach to every child that is assigned to them, whether or not that child reads and speaks English, has moved every 4 months of their lives or are homeless, come from homes that have parents abusing substances or are violent, child has medical/vision/dental/hearing problems, and the ever ellusive behavioral/emotional/psychological problems.

    PLEASE, when crafting laws and policies, PLEASE keep in mind that teachers (most all of them) selected this as their career because they CARE, and are basically, humanitarians, and they love spending their time nurturing the seeds of knowledge within the souls of others, and value growth and the blossoming of even more.

    How can you put a SCORE on such a person fairly, given the children they serve? Many Title 1 teachers, and teachers working with children living daily with the above challenges are extremely concerned about "finding a workable system" when oft times the only thing that teacher can celebrate is the fact the child made it to school that day, let alone can focus, learn, retain information long enough to recall it for the IDMS or CRTs.

    Teachers typically don't want to leave their classes to fight the government over issues, hence they hire and trust their union representatives to convey their concerns faithfully. Folks out there need to realize that this is NOT a UNION versus the GOVERNMENT fight, where there are greedy teachers out there trying to squeeze every penny out of the taxpayer, as some would wish to paint. All the teachers of Nevada ask for, is to be fairly treatly.

    If the mining, gaming/resort, and big box store industries were TAXED APPROPRIATELY OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES we would not be having this conversation. If immigration laws were enforced and illegals were compelled to either legally be here or become a citizen or be deported (for the last few decades), we would not be having this conversation.

    The tremendous impact that all the children of these non-English speaking people have on education, social services (Welfare for food/shelter/medical), and crime has been born on the backs of citizens here in Nevada and USA citizens. FIX THAT and quit avoiding it and kicking the political can down the road once again!

  3. Surprise! The teachers union is against education reform. Who'd a thunk it?

  4. These are good steps toward genuine education reform. Even the left-wing Center for American Progress recognizes that we can't protect bad teachers (they found Nevada kept 99.4 percent of its teachers).

    This presentation by Whitney Tilson of Democrats for Education Reform should help you get a better understanding of the problem plus some ideas for solutions:

  5. I'm also not sure what Ms. Warne is against in this legislation since she agreed with me on nearly every point about teacher evaluation and tenure I made on Jon Ralston's Face to Face last year.

    She agreed that bad teachers should be removed
    She agreed that a value added evaluation method could be used
    She agreed that the probationary period for tenure should be extended....

  6. Hey, FINK...
    You just can't wait to parrot, can ya?
    Jerry want a cracker???