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July 5, 2015

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j. patrick coolican:

Republican’s stance on education puts wife’s job in cross hairs

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

State Sen. Michael Roberson is a rising star in the Republican Party.

He caught the attention of conservatives during his first legislative session this year with tough rhetoric attacking teachers unions and a Clark County School District he said was bloated with personnel who aren’t in the classroom. In fact, he offered legislation that would have mandated 65 percent of education money go to classrooms.

As it happens, the School District received a report recently from Gibson Consulting Group recommending $162 million in efficiency savings over five years, money that could be put toward classroom instruction. One of the cost-saving measures that would reap $1.8 million per year would eliminate the position of “theme coordinator” and “recruiting counselor” at the district’s magnet schools.

That’s the job title of Liberty Leavitt Roberson, Roberson’s wife, who works at Advanced Technologies Academy.

Click to enlarge photo

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, listens to discussion of the extension of temporary taxes needed to fund the state budget on the Senate floor Monday, June 6, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City.


Karen Diamond, the principal of A-Tech, told me that Leavitt Roberson was “extraordinary in the classroom” before taking her current position to recruit students to the magnet school and help represent A-Tech to the community. (Kudos to Diamond and her staff — the school was recently awarded a “Blue Ribbon” by the U.S. Education Department for academic achievement, an honor it shares with just 70 other schools nationwide.)

Diamond said Leavitt Roberson spends the bulk of her time with students even though she’s not in the classroom. In addition to recruiting for the school, she runs a student service program. The more than 70 students in the program perform volunteer work and serve as ambassadors for the school. They tutor students after school, including children with cancer and children at other Clark County schools, while performing other service projects. Leavitt Roberson was named volunteer of the year by the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Leavitt Roberson, who comes from a prominent Nevada family, made $48,076 in pay plus benefits in 2010, according to TransparentNevada, a database of public employee salaries.

“I love Liberty, and I would love to keep her,” Diamond told me.

So how about it, Michael Roberson?

Roberson took his usual tough line: “If critics of me want to take on my wife, they ought to put on their big-boy pants and take me on directly.”

Apropos of what, I’m not certain, but Roberson attacked the teachers union: “The teachers union are schoolyard bullies. They don’t care about the children of this state. They care about protecting adult professional jobs.”

Roberson, the product of a fine public-university education from the University of Kansas and its law school, voted against the final tax and budget package this year that extended taxes scheduled to sunset. Not extending the taxes would have required significant cuts to education, higher education and Medicaid.

As for the auditor’s report, Roberson said, “It’s in line with my proposed bill, which forces more available dollars into the classroom and into areas where you have a direct relationship with students. There are 350 education bureaucrats making six figures. Most had no direct relationship with the kids. I believe Superintendent (Dwight) Jones is changing that, and that’s a good thing.”

There aren’t 350 education bureaucrats making six figures. There were 299 in 2009 and 285 in 2010. (But hey, if his accuracy were a batting average, he’d be the best hitter ever.)

Roberson expressed support for Jones. “I think Superintendent Jones should be given wide leeway in implementing reform, and he should be supported. I’m going to do everything I can to support him. I will be getting together with him to see how I can help him in Carson City.”

The legislative session ended four months ago. One would think someone claiming to be such a dedicated education reformer would have already met with Jones, who by all accounts is a hard-charging reformer in his own right.

Roberson’s failure to do so to this point has me wondering if he is less interested in the fortunes of the School District than he is in sloganeering and fueling his political ambitions.

Oh, no, of course that can’t be true.

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  1. The teachers themselves are not the problem.
    It is the teachers union and the school administration that are the problem.
    If you read the paper by the Nevada Policy Institute about education in Nevada you would blanche at the numbers of how much is paid and how much gets to the classroom. The overhead is ridiculous.

    Also there is no reason for tenure for teachers. I grew up here and went to school here. I had one teacher in high school that should have been let go because she didn't care at all. She should have been gone. The other teachers I had were good to great. I love the teachers, it's the people in the middle I don't care for.

  2. Coolican, throw the negative out there and continue to protect the the weak, those making six figures. Why not ask "Liberty", see what her opinion is?

    Disgraceful article, when you think about it. Why not check the six figures of secretaries, maintenance and lobby people for this district. Every one knows the truth of who you are protecting.

    It will be nice the day that I don't have to read this subsidized rag. Bad angle, refusing to support our kids and striking out at anyone in the middle, no matter their name or position is just plain wrong.

  3. So he should have pulled a Berkley and flopped on the other side to try to save his wifes job. Sounds to me like he is going to do what he believes is the right thing to do.

    We all know Mr. Coolican that even though you would support greatly his flip flop on this issue. Your story wouldn't be...(he's on the side of education). It would be...(Republican Hypocracy).


  5. Since the current educational status of our K-12 schools is the product of progressive Democrat policies, coupled with union influence through the Department of Education over the last 30 to 40 years, it's time for total rework of the education system in the state. Clearly education is not educating at any level in the state.

    If that means getting the unions out, and telling the federal government to go bye-bye then so be it.

    It is clear that the schools have not only failed their students, but the people who pay the teachers and the school system's salaries.

    With inferior math and reading scores, illiteracy is commonplace in schools. Unfortunately it's just not the kids with English as a second language.

  6. The "current educational status of our K-12 schools is the product of" the parents who may or may not provide the proper home environment for learning, study and homework.

    The "liberal education" starts at home with unconcerned, mouthy, ball game watching parents who know more about basketball, football and baseball scores then the algebra their children are supposed to learn. These parents can only tutor sports, not education.

    The TV is on an average of 4.5 hours/day in the average American home and their lives are designed by the boob tube rhetoric on FOX news.

    So many of the "poorly performing" children live in a home environment that WOULD NOT allow me to read a book, let alone contemplate math, history or English. More then half of these parents could not even pass the GED test for high school.

    Only 20% of Clark County residents have a 4 year diploma. They come here to make a fast, easy buck and that's what their home life becomes as well.

    Don't expect Oxford University in New Guinea or it's sister State Nevada.

  7. Oh, this is lovely. But let's face it: he should know that anyone who works for state government and public education is useless, since he's married to one of those lazy, stupid bottom-feeders himself. Right?

  8. SunJon...

    Just so.

  9. SunJon...Those mouthy unconcerned parents are called Democrats. Blaming the gov for not teaching their kids better.

  10. 1944Canucks,

    Your statements are going to resonate with a certain number of readers, and upset quite a few others. Would you kindly supply reference material to back up the claim you make that the majority of poor have "life pretty good?"

    Beyond that, you also imply that people who are poor don't work as hard as those who are not. While it may be true that some people who are poor are basically lazy and want to leech off the public at large, it is by no means true that hard-working people are never poor.

    I think that you as a teacher would avoid such sweeping remarks and insinuations. If nothing else, they provide excellent fuel for those, such as State Sen. Roberson, who want to see it much easier to dismiss poor teachers.

  11. some of you display remarkable stupidity-mr Green from your comments I see that you reaped the bounty of not having good teachers in your youth? and commonsense101 you run a close second. remarkable.

  12. 1944Canucks,

    I'll grant that some parts of your premise might have merit, that is why I asked for references (and your own numbers are not sufficient.) It's not clear what your numbers pertain to. Is this a first year college class? Or are those numbers referring to the parents of your students?

    I'll agree that many kids who do poorly may not have the motivation to do better. And yes, parents can contribute significantly to that motivation. That said, I maintain that a primary mission for a teacher is to instill motivation *where possible* in those students who lack it.

    To put it a different way, one of the primary goals of a teacher should be to instill a love of learning for its own sake, knowing that success in life is almost always a side-benefit of that. Failing that, a teacher should try to instill a sense of self-pride to encourage students to be better than their parents. (And I think social promotion is counter-productive to this end.)

    What I take issue with is your broad generalizations without solid references to frame the argument since some of what you say is worth a discussion.

  13. The point here isn't to "expose" Liberty Leavitt Roberson. If I wanted to do that, I don't think I would have used a character reference who called her extraordinary in the classroom, a much valued team member and winner of an award from the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. The point is to note that Sen. Roberson should use the example of his talented wife to spend less time rhetorically beating up educators and more time working constructively with them.

  14. Although there is a harsh tone to this article I don't see that it is out of line given [a] its subject and [b] the environment created by Senator Roberson regarding funding for education. Every politician needs to be called to account for their stance on particular issues. Robeson has selected education funding as his line in the sand. Political spouses are fair game especially when they have a connection to issues. This is a small state with myriad inter-related and often conflicting roles. It's also a "citizen legislature" state; those men and women have to work and most of their spouses work as well. There will be conflict.