Decision makers need to put students first – not teachers |

Decision makers need to put students first – not teachers

Jim Bagwell
For the Nevada Appeal

Well, it is crunch time. This is in normal years when the Legislature gets into gear and starts churning out legislation to carry Nevada through the next two years. This looks like little will be accomplished between now and June. How many special sessions will it take to solve the budget disagreement and send the reapportionment issue to the courts?

The Democrats are intent on funding schools at their current level or higher. Gov. Brian Sandoval is intent on living with current revenues and a balanced budget. In fact, the governor just vetoed a bill that would have increased school funding by some $600 million. That doesn’t sound like compromise is even a possibility right now.

With Democrats money has always been the answer to solve the failing schools problem. I feel that the education unions have led to the mediocrity of instruction we now have as a norm in our public schools. It is almost impossible to terminate a poor teacher. Instead of placing the student first, the unions have placed the teacher first. Quality of instruction rarely enters the conversation except when the union members come under scrutiny.

In the last week the Nevada State Education Association began an advertising campaign using very young children to chastise Gov. Sandoval’s hold the line budget. The gist of the ad is that if “businesses paid just a little bit more,” no teacher would lose their job and these children would not lose the great education they are getting. A billion dollar boost in education funding four short years ago did what to improve the system then or now? Give us a plan that holds someone responsible for failure.

Let’s look at costs. If the state average for student instruction is around $10,000 per student, why can’t we effectively teach a class of 20 with $200,000? Keep in mind that does not include debt service. That seems like a lot of money for nine months of instruction. That’s only 1,080 hours of instruction in one school year at 6 hours per day. For the entire class of 20 students it equals $185.2 per hour. I’m naive, but I bet most private schools would love to have that funding ability.

You would think that the school systems would have regular public sessions of introspect and try to find solutions to their failing performance. Graduation rates are the worst in the nation. Math and science scores are at or near the bottom when compared to other industrialized nations.

I have asked this before, If our public schools were a privately held company that produced widgets that constantly went down in quality and up in price, would the company remain in business? That is the situation we are now faced with. If we cannot solve this issue how do we expect to remain a viable, competitive nation in a world that demands an educated work force.

I would like to see the teachers unions redesign themselves as groups that put the student first. How refreshing would it be if teachers actually self-enforced a policy of high quality instruction and policed their ranks searching for poor teachers to expel? I doubt that will ever happen because that agenda is not that of the union leaders. Recently I heard a teachers union representative tell Jon Ralston that it is all about “due process.” That is just another way of saying “not on my watch.” Without a significant change in thinking by our teachers, parents and our Legislature we will never put the student first.

• Jim Bagwell of Carson City is a Vietnam veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy who worked 31 years in law enforcement. He and his wife Lori own Charley’s Grilled Subs.