Las Vegas Sun

May 5, 2015

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New law gives governor more control over schools

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Keith Rheault

Keith Rheault

CARSON CITY — The most significant potential change to Nevada’s education system passed by the Legislature has nothing to do with teacher tenure or seniority. Instead, a bill signed last week by Gov. Brian Sandoval dramatically changes who is in charge of the state’s education system, putting the governor in greater control of K-12 education.

Senate Bill 197 calls for replacing the 10-member elected Board of Education, which oversees the state Education Department and its 156 employees and the superintendent of schools, with a seven-member panel: four elected from each of the state’s congressional districts and the remaining three appointed by the governor, with recommendations from Senate and Assembly leaders.

Additionally, the governor will appoint and be able to fire the superintendent of public instruction, who currently serves at the pleasure of the Board of Education.

The bill “will turn out to be the single biggest feature in improving our schools,” said Ray Bacon, president of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, which has pushed for conservative changes to education policy. He noted that since the time of Gov. Grant Sawyer, in the 1960s, governors have campaigned on the promise of improving schools. Once in office, “they found out fundamentally they had no control, no authority.”

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval and a former Clark County School District staffer, said the governor will have more authority over things such as professional standards for teachers, how to rescue failing districts and testing. He will have at his disposal a vast amount of data on student test scores and school performance, which critics say are being underused by districts and the Board of Education.

“The governor will finally have direct authority over education in our state,” Erquiaga said.

But the change won’t happen overnight, or with unanimous consent.

State Superintendent Keith Rheault has a contract through March 2013. He said he will not seek a fourth three-year term. (He spent nine years as a deputy superintendent.)

The Board of Education “reluctantly” supported changing its composition, Rheault said. But both the board and Rheault opposed having the superintendent directly serve the governor.

“The current system provides a better check and balance to keep issues less political,” he said. “I have to work with the governor’s office, the board, the Legislature.”

He wondered what will happen on issues such as school vouchers, a policy on which the Board of Education and governor disagree.

The Nevada State Education Association, which represents teachers, also opposed changing how the superintendent is appointed.

Craig Stevens, a lobbyist for the association, said the changes could bring drastic shifts in policy, depending on who is in the Governor’s Mansion.

“Education policy does not happen right away,” Stevens said. “The Department of Education, education in general are not ships you turn quickly. Kids are going to see one policy reform, and then four years or maybe eight years later see a different direction.”

A new superintendent and new board won’t be implemented until 2013.

Bacon, who served on the state’s blue ribbon task force for education reform, said Sandoval won’t have to account for the quality of education, given the time frame for implementing the changes. But he predicted future governors would be praised or criticized based on the performance of K-12 schools.

“Whether schools improve is going to be a huge factor in whether governors are re-elected,” Bacon said.

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  1. Why not give parents more control over schools instead?

  2. Governor Sandoval, I recommend that you make mandatory education end at 9th grade. Give students the option of continuing a regular high school curriculum through 12th grade or give them 2-year vocational training instead.

    Let's face it, many kids are just going through the motions. Let them earn money right away while gaining some experience about life in the "real world".

    This should help cut back on expenses and reduce classroom size for the remaining students. If they want to get their GED later on in life, I'm sure CSN or University of Phoenix will be happy to oblige.

  3. "The governor will finally have direct authority over education in our state"...

    Okay, class; raise your hands if you think this is a *GOOD* idear!...

    ...are you freakin' "kidding" me???
    What, exactly, do you suppose QUALIFIES Gov. B.S., or a "GYM" Gibbons, for example, to have "direct authority" over Education in our state?

    Okay, class; raise your hands if you think this is about ANYTHING BUT VOUCHERS...

    "He wondered what will happen on issues such as school vouchers, a policy on which the Board of Education and governor disagree."


    If you were given a

  4. ...(cont.)
    if you were given a $5000 'voucher' to send your kid to a $20,000 per-year Private school, where on EARTH would YOU come up with the 'extra' $15,000?

  5. Giving Sandogibbons direct authority over schools is like giving Anthony Weiner control of your twitter account. Perhaps his staff finds that appealing.

  6. I think this is a fantastic idea! the education sytem in this state is broken and the people in charge don't care. Look at what the complaints are from the Nevada State Education Association. They say that there may be drastic changes in policy.

    Most of us feel there NEEDS to be a drastic change!

  7. Running the schools is no different than running any government entity. Leadership is the problem and so long as people in charge have none of the skills required to lead, nothing will ever change. People in power are beholden to their personal motivations and political affiliations. NO ONE is beholden to CHILDREN.

    What we need are people with true concerns for children - ALL CHLDREN. Sadly these people are not in power.

    My advice: Parents, advocate for your children. Teachers, advocate for you students. If you don't, no one else will. You have options, election being one of them. Involve yourselves with the process. As Margaret Mead said, "Don't ever doubt the difference one person can make. In fact, it is the only one that ever has."

  8. Notice, that those who say "The National Debt is endangering the future of our children", are the first ones to cut funding in the schools. This is to pay for a war in Iraq on MasterCard, that was based on false assertions in the first place.

    The Supreme Court of the United States, thanks to George W. Bush, now allows unlimited campaign contributions to elections by those with self serving agendas.

    Keeping these people in power will turn this Country into the Aristocracy of Medieval Europe. The same minds exist today in American politics and the longer they are in office, the more Aristocratic this Country will become.

  9. Here is the link for SB 197:

    We can keep whipping teachers and school staff and dehumanizing them until the dust beneath our feet has more respect than they do.

    What has happened, is, a grand trick to side-track the masses into all the protests and political battles during this session, while Governor Sandoval, very creatively, and cleverly crafted this piece of legislation, got it passed, with not a soul objecting! Marvelous!

  10. "The governor will finally have direct authority over education in our state," Erquiaga said.

    Just one question...precisely how many statewide education systems have you successfully run during your career, Governor?
    (Ooops, I more question)
    Would it be reasonable to presume that you intend to start terminating, and keep terminating, superintendents until you get one that won't disagree with you on the voucher BS?
    (Okay, a third question, but this one is sort of rhetorical, so you don't need to feel any pressure to make something up)
    Why am I glad all my kids are grown and out of school?

  11. Thanks Sheila - I couldn't remember the whole quote. What I want to stress is that to make change, we have to change ourselves. Apathy and placing blame on others do not help.

    There was a children's book I've read many months ago. It was about a soccer game that could not be started because there was 'dog poop' on the field. One by one people looked at it and exclaimed, "Ewwww," and left. Everybody just kept saying Ewww and did nothing. Finally, someone said, "Ewww," got a pooper scooper and threw that thing away. The soccer game at last could begin.

    Many of us love to say, "Ewww," yet very few get the pooper scooper.