Teachers union gives Legislature ugly report card

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LAS VEGAS - Nevada legislators failed K-12 schools this session with deep budget cuts and changes to teacher evaluation and collective bargaining rules, according to a report card the state teachers union released Monday that flunks every elected Republican and serves near-failing grades to some high-ranking Democrats.

The Nevada State Education Association, the largest public employee union in Nevada, released its report card almost three months after lawmakers ended a hard-fought session that ended with pay cuts for teachers and calls on them to contribute to their pensions.

"We want teachers who are starting their first day of school to understand why they don't see the services and the support that they do," NSEA lobbyist Craig Stevens said.

But Republicans - all 26 of whom scored an F - scoffed at the report card.

"As the teachers union continues to frame the education debate about what's best for the adults, Senate Republicans remain committed to asking what is in the best interest of ... the students," the GOP caucus said in a Monday statement.

The A-through-F grades were based about two-thirds on each lawmaker's voting record, Stevens said, and were weighted more heavily by votes on major budget and reform bills. The remaining one-third is based on opinions from members of the union's team of lobbyists, who ranked how strongly each legislator supported the union.

"We all sat in the hearings when the Republicans wouldn't move on the funding," Stevens said of Republican resistance to a Democratic proposal that would have raised about $1.2 billion through taxes and other means. "There was no compromise. They refused to budge."

The lone Democrat to get an "F" was conservative state Sen. John Lee of North Las Vegas, but the report card gives low marks to Democrats who sponsored an education reform package making it easier to fire underperforming teachers.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, both got Ds. So did Assemblyman David Bobzien, the Reno Democrat who chaired the Assembly education committee where many of the bills originated.

"They look at the significant reforms we reached as a bad thing," said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, who gave several impassioned speeches on the Senate floor about the condition of deteriorating Nevada school campuses, scored a B.

Seven Democratic Assemblymen scored an A: Kelvin Atkinson, Richard Carillo, Maggie Carlton, William Horne, Dina Neal, Peggy Pierce and Tick Segerblom.

Five Democratic Senators earned an A or A-: Shirley Breeden, Ruben Kihuen, Mark Manendo, David Parks, and Michael Schneider.

Representatives from the large union - which traditionally is a cornerstone of the Democratic party - says it hopes the report card sheds light on candidates' track records come election season.

Republicans say it could work in their favor.

"I think of this as being a voice that is looking forward to changing a system that's not working," Kieckhefer said. "I'm going to wear my F as a badge of honor."


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