The root of all public education evil

Comedian Lewis Black has a new show on the air called "The Root of All Evil." Black serves as the judge while two fellow comedians make cases for why one person/entity or another is the worst blight on society. We could use a Nevada episode with the choice being between the Nevada State Board of Education and charter school "consultant" Tom McCormack.

McCormack is a Department of Education employee who was given the title of "consultant" because, I suppose, it sounded better than Hatchet-man. McCormack is a paper-pushing bureaucrat who is as hostile to charter schools as any teachers union boss.

But McCormack isn't just hostile to charter schools. He's openly hostile to parents, as well - at least when it comes to them meddling in their children's education. In fact, at the last board meeting in March, McCormack told the members that "any time you have a situation where a student's success depends upon something the parent does, that is unfair to the student."

Nice, huh? When the time comes to start laying off government workers, Tom McCormack should be the first to go.

On the other hand, the collective bird-brain known as the Board of Education decided in December to slap a moratorium on approving any new charter school applications despite waiting lists of students desperately hoping to get into one and escape the failed public schools they've been assigned to by the government. The Board followed up that decision in March by denying two existing charter schools permission to expand their operations to meet the rising demand. That decision has resulted in a sitting state senator, Terry Care, suing the board last week.

What's so distressing is that some members of this board, who hold the fate of our kids' education in their hands, aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. Let's start with board member Anthony Ruggiero, who can't figure out the difference between a distance learning charter school and a home-schooling family. Ruggiero opened up the March meeting with these words of wisdom: "I would like to read my horoscope for today. It is on AOL and I'm a Taurus. Some people say they can tell I'm a Taurus. I'm so full of bull my eyes are brown."

He'll get no argument from me.

Later in the meeting in response to a point made about the board denying the Virtual Academy charter school's request to expand their program into grades K-3, Ruggiero insisted that "There was not a denial. It was just not approved." Huh?

But Ruggiero is a veritable rocket scientist compared to board member Merv Iverson, a man I suspect might very well be able to hide his own Easter eggs.

On a motion made by board member Barbara Myers, Iverson responded, "I'm sorry, Ms. Myers, I really didn't understand what you said." So Myers repeated the motion in plain English, to which Iverson replied, "Now, tell me what you just said." To which Myers responded, "I don't know what else I can do to make it any clearer." Which in turn prompted Iverson to exclaim, "I'm all of a sudden functioning at a level of confusion."

And that was one of Merv's more lucid moments.

Later in the meeting, Iverson volunteered this gem: "I dislike very much eating bananas to the point I don't like bananas anymore." Um, OK. He later joined McCormack in "dissing" parents with this verbal slap across the face: "I have experienced in many, many cases that a learning environment at home is detrimental to a child." Stupid parents.

So, when it comes to the lousy state of public education in Nevada - combined with their hostility to school choice in general, and charter schools in particular - which is the root of all evil: the Nevada State Board of Education or Tom McCormack? You be the judge.

• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit You can e-mail him at


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