Amid call for courageous ed reforms, some stall | NevadaAppeal.com

Amid call for courageous ed reforms, some stall

MICHELLE RINDELS
Associated Press

Education reform was paramount Wednesday as Nevada superintendents told legislators their dreams for turning around the state’s low-ranking schools.

“If we’re going to change this system, it’s going to take courage,” Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight D. Jones told legislators. “It can’t just be luck. It must be by design.”

But the details of those reforms – including a bill that would make firing an underperforming teacher easier – and even the philosophy of the undertaking itself drew scrutiny at a hearing before a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly education committees.

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, asked Washoe County Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison why high school graduation rates were so low although state funding, adjusted for inflation, had increased over the past generation. School officials pointed to Nevada’s tourism-based economy, where a high school diploma often was not required for a job; that served as a demotivating factor for some students, he said.

But is it a problem with parenting? Brower wanted to know.

The question sparked a passionate speech by Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who said her father was so busy working to support her family that she did not get support in her educational endeavors. She dropped out of high school as a junior before getting back on track later.

“Some parents – while they have the best intentions – don’t have the tools,” Flores said.

While parenting is crucial, “I can’t make a parent care more,” Morrison said. “We can only do what we can do.”

Among the systemic reforms legislators heard Wednesday was SB39, a measure that would extend a probationary period for new teachers, making it easier to release them if they fell short of expectations.

The Nevada State Educations Association union stood against the measure, saying the bill did not offer probationary employees enough due process protection against capricious or personality-based firing.

“It will demoralize educators,” said NSEA lobbyist Craig Stevens. “They go through several years of training and a rigorous licensing process. They should at least have a basic level of job security.”

SB39 calls for a three-year probationary period, up from the current two years. During the period, a teacher is closely monitored by a supervisor and “may be admonished, demoted, suspended, dismissed or not re-employed without cause, without notice and without a hearing.”