Gov. Sandoval Signs Education Reform Bills Into Law

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today signed four public education reform bills into law, saying Nevada has “made great advancements on behalf of our schoolchildren.”

Sandoval signed Assembly Bills 225 and 229, and Senate Bills 197 and 212 into law.

Gov. Brian Sandoval today signed education reform legislation into law./Nevada News Bureau file photo

“I am proud to sign these groundbreaking education reform bills into law,” he said. “Today, we have replaced traditional tenure with an evaluation system that allows for the removal of ineffective teachers from the classroom and dramatically alters the practice of using seniority as the only factor in school district lay-offs. Other factors including performance and effectiveness must now be included in teacher evaluations, as will student achievement data.”

Sandoval also noted that for the first time in state history, the governor has the authority to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction, as well as members of the newly revised state Board of Education. The Board will also have members appointed by legislative leaders, as well as four members elected by the people of Nevada.

“A new statewide entity will also have responsibility over our charter schools, ensuring more quality choices are available to parents and students,” he said. “These are historic education reforms which will help improve the quality of Nevada’s education system.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, one of the sponsors of the two Assembly bills, said: “I am pleased the education reforms we began developing over the past year have now become law. These reforms are the result of months and months of discussions with business leaders, education experts, school officials, teachers, parents and other elected officials.

“I am convinced these reforms are going to make a big difference in our kids’ lives, creating a better learning experience, ensuring Nevada has a better educated citizenry, and setting us on a path to long-term economic growth,” she said.

AB225 changes post-probationary status for educators by requiring that if a post-probationary educator receives negative evaluations two years in a row, the teacher would be placed back on probationary status.

AB229 establishes a pay-for-performance program so educators are rewarded for positive outcomes, extends the probationary period from one to three years so there is adequate time to evaluate an educator, and adds as grounds for termination the definition of gross misconduct so educators who make egregious violations can be dismissed swiftly. It also provides that layoffs of educators must not be based solely on seniority.

Sandoval and legislative leaders agreed on the reforms as part of an agreement to extend tax hikes set to sunset on June 30 to add more revenue to the state budget.

One reform sought by Sandoval, to move towards a constitutionally permissible school voucher program, was not achieved in the 2011 session.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association and a long-time advocate for reform to Nevada’s public education system, said last week in an interview he believes the changes to the public education system will produce improved student achievement over the long term.

Others are not so sure.

Victor Joecks, communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, has called the education reforms minor and said they will have minimal impact on increasing student achievement in Nevada.