Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

Poll Finds Nevadans Divided On New Tax Proposal But Strongly Favor Education Reform Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The results of a poll of Nevada residents conducted on behalf of the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) show that 45 percent of those queried believe a 2 percent margins tax on business proposed by teachers will generate the revenues necessary to support public education.

But 49 percent say the new levy, if approved, would raise prices, increase the state’s already high jobless rate and hurt business, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies of 500 likely voters taken Sept. 19-20. It has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

And when asked if money alone will improve Nevada’s public education system, only 22 percent agreed, with 73 percent saying the system also needs significant reforms.

The Nevada State Education Association is currently circulating petitions to take the proposed new tax to the Legislature in 2013, but a legal challenge to the proposal remains alive in Carson City District Court.

The poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed said the amount of taxes they pay is about right, with 22 percent saying taxes are too high.

And 58 percent said the governor and Legislature should raises taxes if necessary to avoid cuts to education and health care, while 32 percent said spending should be cut instead.

RAN began conducting the semi-annual poll in 2009, and many of the questions have been asked each time. In this way, the poll can give not only a snapshot of current conditions, but it can also identify trends by comparing results from earlier polls.

Poll information is then shared with RAN members, the public and state legislators so that the concerns of our state will be considered when policies are shaped in Carson City.

Among the other findings in the latest survey:

- Gov. Brian Sandoval is popular, with 62 percent approving of his job performance. But only 45 percent say the governor understands their problems, and only 33 percent say the Legislature does.

- A majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, say the state should not freeze the defined benefits offered to public employees through the state retirement system, while 41 percent say a freeze should be implemented to save money.

- The survey found that 48 percent of respondents believe that Nevada should opt into the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act, while 44 percent say the state should opt out because of the cost and because the neediest residents are already covered.

- Asked about the conservative Tea Party Movement, 26 percent of respondents said they had a strongly or somewhat favorable view of the movement, with 35 percent saying they have strongly or somewhat unfavorable views.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national political and public affairs research firm. Founded in 1991, POS has conducted more than five million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over two dozen foreign countries.

Teachers To Remove Offending Provision In Margin Tax Petition, Re-file By Friday

By Sean Whaley | 10:24 am August 6th, 2012

CARSON CITY –A spokesman for the Nevada State Education Association said the group will re-file its margin tax initiative proposal by the end of the week after removing one section found in violation of petition rules today by a Carson City district judge.

Gary Peck, executive director of the association, said the provision requiring taxpayer information to be posted publicly on the state Department of Taxation’s website will be eliminated from the petition after Judge James Wilson today ruled its inclusion violated a “single-subject” rule for such measures.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson.

The petition will then be re-filed with the Secretary of State’s office and the signature collection effort will begin, he said.

“We are heartened by the judge’s ruling,” Peck said. “He threw out one provision in the entire initiative. We intend to remove that provision and re-file the initiative by the end of this week.

“We remain confident that, when the dust settles, the re-filed initiative will withstand any further legal challenges,” he said. “We will gather sufficient signatures to qualify it and the Legislature or the people of Nevada will enact the margins tax.”

The public understands the need for a stable, dedicated source of funding that will allow for adequate investments in, “our woefully underfunded K-12 system,” Peck said.

Josh Hicks, the attorney representing the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, said in a statement: “The committee will closely review any newly filed margin tax petition. If a new petition is still a massive tax increase on Nevadans disguised as an increase in education funding, the committee will file a new lawsuit.”

Wilson found fault with the existing petition because it proposed both the margin tax and a requirement for certain taxpayer information to be made public as part of the measure. He enjoined the Secretary of State’s office from submitting the petition to the Legislature in 2013 or to the general election ballot in 2014.

But the ruling does not preclude the re-filing of the initiative, minus the offending provision, by the teachers association.

The petition, filed in June, seeks to levy a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year. The association was waiting until Wilson’s ruling before circulating petitions to gather the necessary signatures to take the measure to the Legislature next year, and then to the voters if lawmakers failed to act.

The petition was challenged in court by the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, which argued it violated the single-subject rule. The committee also argued the 200 word description of effect of the proposal was inadequate.

Wilson ruled the description of effect was proper and rejected the committee’s arguments.

But because the petition also sought to have information identifying the companies paying the margin tax and the amount they paid published on a website by the Department of Taxation for the public to review, it improperly encompassed two subjects, he said.

“Imposing a tax to support Nevada schools and changing current tax law to make certain tax record information public are not functionally related and germane to each other in a way that provides sufficient notice of the general subject of, and the interests likely to be affect by, the proposed initiative,” Wilson said in his decision.

Other challenges to the singe-subject rule raised by the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs were rejected by Wilson.

Teachers are seeking the new tax to bring in as much as $800 million a year for public education.

The group has until Nov. 13 to collect can collect 72,352 signatures to take the measure to lawmakers. The Legislature would then have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014.


Audio clips:

Gary Peck, executive director of the teachers association says the initiative petition, with the one section removed, will be re-filed by Friday:

080612Peck1 :16 of this week.”

Peck says the revised petition will survive any further legal challenges:

080612Peck2 :25 the margins tax.”



Group Representing Nevada Businesses Files Court Challenge To Teacher-Backed Margin Tax

By Sean Whaley | 10:35 am June 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs filed a lawsuit today against the “Education Initiative” (margin tax Initiative) charging that that the petition’s description of effect is deceptive and incomplete and that it violates the single-subject rule.

The complaint was filed in Carson City District Court.

“From the title on down, the initiative is deeply flawed and misleading,” said Josh Hicks, of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the attorney for the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs. “The initiative has nothing to do with education and includes many aspects that are not mentioned in the initiative’s description. We believe that as written, this initiative violates Nevada law.”

The complaint notes that the 26-page “Education Initiative” mentions education only once in its description of effect and that it makes no provision for requiring that education funding be increased over current levels by “even a penny.”

The complaint also notes that the petition’s terms allow for a decrease in classroom funding, which would be an “unpleasant surprise” to Nevadans who sign it.

The Nevada State Education Association filed its petition with Secretary of State Ross Miller on June 6. It would levy a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year.

NSEA President Lynn Warne said at the time the tax would bring in an estimated $800 million a year from large Nevada corporations. She also said the petition is expected to withstand any legal scrutiny.

NSEA President Lynn Warne answered questions about the margin tax proposal when it was filed June 6. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Hicks said the initiative imposes a margin tax on businesses and increases the size of the Nevada Department of Taxation, a multi-million dollar government agency, to administer and audit the new tax.

“The petition’s title and description of effect will confuse Nevada voters and mislead them into signing a petition that does not do what it purports to do and that does do many things that are hidden from view,” he said.

As an example, Hicks noted that the description of effect makes no mention that taxpayer information will be posted on the internet in clear violation of taxpayer privacy rights guaranteed by Nevada law since 1979. In addition, the complaint notes that the description does not mention that even unprofitable and failing businesses that are losing money will still be subject to the tax and that “an increased taxation on failing businesses is certainly not going to improve the unemployment rate.”

“Quite clearly, this initiative is designed solely to increase general tax revenues and to take advantage of citizen’s concerns about education in order to mislead them into signing the petition and, later, into voting for it,” Hicks said. “Nevada law is quite clear in prohibiting such deceptions.”

The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs is supported by a variety of Nevada organizations including: the Nevada Taxpayers Association; Retail Association of Nevada; Charles Baird; Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce; The First National Bank of Ely; Nevada Farm Bureau Federation; The Chamber; Nevada Manufacturers Association; Nevada Bankers Association; Nevada Petroleum Marketers Association; Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association; National Federation of Independent Business ; Nevada Trucking Association; Financial and Intangible Assets Enterprises of Nevada ; Las Vegas Sands Corporation; Keystone Corporation; and Nevada Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors.


American Jobs Act May Create Unfunded Burden on State

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:09 pm October 5th, 2011

When he visits Las Vegas on Oct. 24, President Barack Obama will continue his nationwide tour urging Congress to pass the Americans Jobs Act, his $450 billion plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“Pass this jobs bill, and there will be funding to save the jobs of up to 13,000 North Carolina teachers, cops, and firefighters,” Obama said earlier this month to thousands of supporters at North Carolina State University.

The president has not, however, shared with voters that his jobs bill as presented would fund many of the proposed jobs for only one year, nor has he explained his plan for how the jobs would be paid for once federal funds run out.

A recent White House press release on the impact of the American Jobs Act in Nevada said the measure would help Nevada localities avoid and reverse layoffs, through an influx of $258.3 million to support up to 3,600 educator and first responder (police and firefighter) jobs.

Dividing the $258.3 million in federal funding proposed for Nevada by 3,600 jobs yields $71,750 to cover salary, benefits, and other costs associated with providing each position. Based on average teacher or first responder pay and benefits in the state, it is likely that funding from the jobs bill would, on average, cover no more than one year of total compensation.

For example, teacher salaries before benefits in Clark County School District range from $34,688 to $69,272. After benefits are added in, teacher pay packages range from $50,267 to $93,785, the median being $72,026.

Sections 204-209 of the bill as proposed include provisions requiring states to “meet the requirements” of the measure for an additional two years.

A White House spokeswoman has said the bill includes no unfunded mandates but unless Nevada picks up the funding for these positions after the first year or so, it is unclear how the teachers and first responders supported by it would be paid going forward.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has not taken a position on the proposed federal legislation but a spokesperson in his office said he “would encourage members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation to avoid any ‘maintenance of effort’ provisions that place a long-term burden on state resources, even in exchange for short-term relief.”

Should the state’s economy improve significantly, revenue would flow into the state coffers and enable a continuation of funding. However, recent economic reports and projections make the prospect of significantly increased state funds seem unlikely at present.

Another issue is that the traditional school year has begun, local school districts have hired teachers, and classes are under way. Even if the bill became law quickly, it is unclear how Nevada government agencies could accept and process the federal money and achieve the president’s job goals during the current school year.

The nation

Obama’s American Jobs Act includes $35 billion for state and local government employees: $30 billion to hire or preserve the jobs of public school teachers, and $5 billion for police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.

In the White House analysis for each state, the categories are combined. One-seventh, or 14 percent, of the money covers first responders.

An analysis of the planned allotment and estimated jobs from each state yields a nationwide average cost per job of $74,757.

Background information provided by the White House on the American Jobs Act bases the distribution of funds to each state primarily on population. The job estimates rely on public sector labor costs obtained from each state.

(Story continues after graphic generously provided by Carolina Journal.)



(For an Excel spreadsheet with the state-by-state breakdown, click here.)

An analysis places Nevada 22nd among the states in cost per job.

At the extreme ends of the rankings, South Dakota would receive the least money per job and New York the most.

South Dakota would get $77.6 million for an estimated 1,600 jobs, or $48,500 per job. New York, by contrast, would receive $1.77 billion for an estimated 18,000 jobs, or $98,322 per job.

California ranks second to New York with $3.6 billion for an estimated 37,300 jobs, $97,086 per job.


Lawmakers Respond to Poor Marks on Teachers’ Union Report Card

By Anne Knowles | 5:45 am August 30th, 2011

School just started and every Republican state lawmaker has already received a failing grade from Nevada’s teachers’ union.

The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) has released its 2011 legislative session report card and the 16 Assembly and 11 Senate Republicans all earned an F, according to the statewide association.

“Taking away educators’ rights is not education reform, it’s union-busting,” said the report. “You cannot have proper reform unless the proper funding is in accompaniment. In this regard, the 2011 Legislature came up woefully short.”

But the report didn’t spare either political party.

“NSEA believes this unfortunate outcome lies at the feet of the leadership in both parties, along with Governor Sandoval,” the report says.

Only one Democrat, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, received a failing mark, while the rest of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus got A or B grades. But more than half the Assembly Democrats fared little better than their Republican colleagues, receiving eight C and seven D grades in total.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, for example, the speaker pro tempore, who is known for her interest in education issues, received a D.

Smith was chairwoman of Assembly Ways and Means, where two major education bills, Assembly Bill 225 and AB 579 originated. AB 225 changed teacher probationary rules and supersedes collective bargaining, while AB 579 funded K-12 education. Smith was also a primary sponsor on two other key bills: AB 222, which created a leadership council to evaluate teacher performance, and AB 229, a broad reform bill.

“I’m disappointed, of course,” said Smith in reaction to her grade. “My whole adult life I’ve worked as an advocate for K-12. I understand the teachers’ union has a job to do, to represent their members on jobs and benefits.  But I’m comfortable with the packages we put forth.”

Republicans lawmakers were less concerned with the report.

“I’m not really as bothered by the failing grade for all the Republicans as I am by the failing grades in our schools,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

Settelmeyer said the Republicans were right to work to reform collective bargaining and get rid of the so-called “last in, first out” way of laying-off teachers that protected seniority regardless of performance.

“I think the report shows how out of touch with reality the association is with both the economic situation and the desires of both parents and students,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer said NSEA’s stand on legislation showed it cared more about protecting its adult members than students.

The NSEA disagrees.

“Kids right now are going to school with fewer services and more kids in the classroom,” said Craig Stevens, director of government relations at NSEA. “If they were truly putting kids first, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

The NSEA says the legislature gutted the budget, cutting $300 million from the previous budget and forcing a 9 percent pay cut on school employees.

In addition, says Stevens, the legislature did nothing to address the state’s budget deficit.

“To truly fix the funding problem we must fix the deficit. They’re going to walk into the next session with a billion dollar hole,” said Stevens. “At least the Democrats came out with a plan to try to fund the budget responsibly. The Republicans made no effort and sat there saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) said she thought lawmakers did the best they could on education measures in light of the challenges of balancing the state budget.

“In my mind, we are sent up to Carson City to make hard choices,” said Kirkpatrick. “And it could have been so much worse. If the taxes that were set to sunset had not been extended, I don’t know that I would have supported deeper cuts — but they were, so we found a way. And I think the reforms were fair.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, characterized the report as misleading, especially on funding issues.

Victor Joecks, communications director for NPRI, said the education budget was cut in a 2010 special session by several hundred million dollars so the budget passed in 2011 actually increased funding slightly.

“It’s a false narrative that flies in the face of reform,” said Joecks of the report.

Joecks said per pupil spending will increase from $5,192 last year to $5,263 this fall and $5,374 in 2012-2013.

He also said that the nine percent cut in teacher pay cited in the report includes contributions teachers will now be making to their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) accounts. Previously, teachers did not contribute to their retirement accounts.


Gov. Sandoval Signs Education Reform Bills Into Law

By Sean Whaley | 11:17 am June 15th, 2011

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.


Senators Sit On Floor In Impromptu Debate With Camping Activists

By Andrew Doughman | 5:18 pm May 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Republicans gave new meaning to the legislative jargon “floor debate” today.

Several lawmakers sat on the floor outside their offices today as they talked to activists who have been camping on the Capitol lawn since yesterday night in support of new revenue.

The impromptu, hour-long debate featured a variety of popular budget topics including teacher pay, textbooks in schools, higher education tuition and taxes.

It all started when about two dozen campers requested an audience with Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who did not have room for them in her office. So she stepped outside, and they sat on the floor together.

Several other Republican senators joined her soon after, and Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, offered shortbread Girl Scout cookies all around.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Warren Hardy, a former legislator and current lobbyist who watched the debate. “It’s a great dialog. If I were still a senator, I would be right in the middle of it because I think that’s the respect these people deserve.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, speaks with Michael Flores, a ProgressNOW organizer, outside her office in the halls of the Legislature. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Republicans fielded a variety of questions from tough critics, some of whom are from organizations like Progress NOW Nevada and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Those groups have supported Democratic plans for new taxes and have opposed Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

One girl asked about a shortage of textbooks in her Clark County School District high school.

Responding, Roberson said that many Clark County School District employees earn six-figure salaries and he wants more money going into the classroom.

Bob Fulkerson of PLAN called the response a “good sound byte,” but not a solution for poor rural school districts.

Roberson, in a familiar line, said that collective bargaining is “bankrupting the state,” after which several people shouted: “no.”

“If every teacher makes concessions, you will not have one teacher laid off,” Roberson said.

Republicans touted reforms to collective bargaining and advocated for the governor’s recommendation to cut teacher and state employee salaries by 5 percent, saying that it is the same suffering that private sector employees have had to bear during this recession.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, listens to a young girl ask him a question about the K-12 system as he sits outside legislative offices with a group camping outside the Legislature to show support for taxes. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau.

The conversation was mostly an exercise in disagreement: over taxes, over the influence of public sector unions, over teacher pay, over tuition.

“If you want taxes to happen immediately, why can’t reforms happen immediately?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, as Roberson, Cegavske, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, looked on.

McGinness had met with the group of campers earlier.

“They talked to me about taxes and I talked to them about the governor’s budget,” he said. “We agreed to disagree.”

Similar disagreements are happening behind closed doors as McGinness and other legislative leaders from both parties are talking about taxes and the governor’s budget. McGinness said he thinks it is likely legislators will meet almost every night to reach a budget compromise.

Seated on the floor, no Republican had a sudden revelation that taxes will save Nevada and none of the campers disavowed taxes, but both groups seemed pleased with the debate.

“I’m so proud of you for sitting on the floor with us,” Cegavske said. “This is awesome.”

Michael Flores, a Progress NOW organizer, said it was “amazing” to talk to legislators for that long in an open-forum debate.

“This is what Democracy looks like,” he said.

Governor Vetoes Democratic K-12 Spending Plan

By Andrew Doughman | 2:58 pm May 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Governor Brian Sandoval today vetoed the Democratic spending proposal for Nevada’s K-12 budget.

Democrats and Republicans had been at loggerheads during debate over the bill, largely because it would provide for spending almost $700 million more than Sandoval wanted.

As expected, Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 568 because he said “it increases state spending by nearly $660 million above the amount proposed in the Executive Budget.”

In a statement explaining the veto, Sandoval also contended that the bill is a “circuitous attempt to secure a tax increase” by passing a spending bill without the money to back it.

Democrats have, however, proposed a $1.2 billion tax package that ostensibly would raise the money to pay for the expenditures in the bill.

By passing the bill and putting it before the governor, Democrats forced the governor’s hand in signing the veto.

“In the past when governors veto a bill they usually tell you why,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, after the bill passed last week. ”It’ll be interesting to see why.”

Sandoval, however, objected to what he said was the “clear intention of casting opponents [to the bill] as somehow ‘anti-education’ while at the same time forcing a tax increase.”

The $660 million would have paid for such things as teacher’s salaries, which the governor had proposed to cut by 5 percent.

“Today, the governor not only turns his back on the struggling schools of Nevada, but he also risks turning our successful schools into factories of underachievement,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in a statement released after the veto.

Rather than an immediate tax increase, the governor said in his veto statement that he prefers waiting for an economic recovery to bring in more money for schools.

“I proposed that ‘triggers’ be adopted so additional funding can continue to go straight to support of the classroom as revenue becomes available through economic recovery,” he said.



Governor’s Education Bills Get First Vetting in Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 9:33 pm April 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval has said before that he can reform Nevada’s education system while still reducing the budget allotted to the state’s K-12 system.

But the cost of several of his proposals drew opposition at a legislative hearing today.

Assembly Bills 554 and 557 would establish a $20 million pot of merit pay for teachers, allow for open enrollment at schools regardless of geographic boundary, give letter grades to schools and end the policy of social promotion.

Representatives from the school districts of Clark and Washoe counties said the reforms, while laudable, required more money than Sandoval has budgeted for.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said that pay for performance – basically, a system of awarding bonuses to good teachers – comes at the expense of cuts to programs like class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten.

“Without the resources, this bill is a difficult task for the school districts,” said Craig Hulse of the Washoe County School District.

On the issue of social promotion, legislators asked about the costs and how many students could be held back under the proposal.

Social promotion is a policy whereby students jump from grade to grade regardless of how much they learn each year.

Ending that policy would mean students who cannot read at grade level may be held back, or face summer school or other remediation. These extra programs could potentially cost the state money.

Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval’s senior adviser, said he did not have an estimate of how many students would be affected.

He did, however, criticize the state’s current policy, saying it leads students to failure.

“Unfortunately it causes critical failure later in the system,” Erquiaga said. “They’re going to fail, they’re going to drop out, they will not graduate later in life.”

Legislators on the Assembly Education committee considering the bills usually debate the policy measures of bills. But during this budget-conscious session, money seems like a difficult issue to avoid.

Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association argued against the merit pay bill not for its policy, but because of the context surrounding the bill.

He said it was wrong to cut the pay teachers currently receive for the years they have worked and the advanced degrees they have attained – totals for which run into the hundreds of millions – and replace that with $20 million in merit pay.

The open enrollment and letter grade sections of the bills were not as controversial. Ken Turner of the Clark County School District, however, said that the school district opposes grading schools with letter grades because that system is too simplistic.

The committee did not yet vote on the bills, instead cutting the meeting short and ending at 8 p.m.


Think Tank Analysis Says Collective Bargaining Law Needs Reforms To Improve Student Achievement

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am March 23rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The author of a new analysis of Nevada’s collective bargaining law says the complex rules have worked to the benefit of teachers’ unions rather than students, making reforms essential to improve the state’s public education system.

In the analysis of Nevada’s collective bargaining law for the Nevada Policy Research Institute released today, author Greg Moo says it is time to revise the rules so real progress can be made on student achievement.

Titled “NRS288 – A Law Against Student Learning,” the analysis says the state statute that requires school districts to bargain with unions over a multitude of issues works against efforts to replace bad teachers.

“Why is it so hard to remove a teacher who’s not teaching and replace that teacher with one who is?” Moo asks in the executive summary of his analysis. “In Nevada, it’s because Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes compels school districts to negotiate long, difficult and costly step-by-step procedures that district administrators must follow to terminate a teacher.

“Moreover, NRS 288 requires that school districts must collectively bargain with teacher unions on a whole shopping list of ‘subjects’ – making contract agreements between school districts and teacher unions into cumbersome obstacles to any school district effort to improve students,” he says.

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, disagrees with the notion that collective bargaining laws negatively affect student achievement. Eight of the10 states that won federal grants to improve student performance in round two of the Race To The Top competition are collective bargaining states, she said.

States with high student achievement rates as demonstrated by graduation rates and  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores are strong union states with collective bargaining laws, Warne said.

“Collective bargaining does not stand as an impediment to innovation, to reform or student achievement,” she said.

In his analysis, Moo also points to the salary schedules used to provide pay raises to teachers – schedules that rely on years of service and increased educational attainment rather than performance in the classroom – as a problem area created by collective bargaining.

Eliminating teacher tenure and binding arbitration, where teachers and school district officials submit their differences to a panel of attorneys for a final decision on a contract dispute, would help Nevada move forward on student achievement, he said. The binding arbitration process has a history of favoring labor unions, Moo said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed some reforms to Nevada’s public education system in the 2011 legislative session, including eliminating teacher tenure. He has not proposed changes to the collective bargaining law himself, but has said he would welcome such a discussion in the Legislature.

Sandoval is also seeking a constitutional amendment to allow for a voucher program so parents could use tax dollars to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. But any such change is several years in the making.

Sandoval also wants a pay for performance plan for teachers, and has proposed ending pay increases to teachers who attain master’s degrees, as part of his budget.

Teachers have said Sandoval’s performance pay effort is inadequate at $20 million statewide.

As the NPRI study notes, a few bills have been introduced in the Legislature to make reforms to the collective bargaining process, although there has been no call yet for an outright repeal of the law as happened recently in Wisconsin.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has introduced Senate Bill 162, which would revise the mandatory topics of collective bargaining for public employees. Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, has introduced Senate Bill 342, which calls for changes concerning collective bargaining between governments and public employees. The city of Reno is also seeking changes to the law in Senate Bill 78.

Moo’s analysis looks at collective bargaining only as it relates to public education.

The state’s school superintendents, facing the potential of reduced funding for teacher salaries in Sandoval’s budget, have also asked lawmakers for the ability to open up collective bargaining laws so such cuts can be implemented if they become reality.

Assembly Democrats have proposed some reforms of their own, including pay for performance for teachers. Democrats have also proposed a change to the probationary status of teachers in Assembly Bill 225. It would place post-probationary teachers back on probationary status if they receive negative evaluations two years in a row.

Warne said the NSEA is supportive of many reforms under discussion this session, including making pay for performance an element of compensation for teachers. The association also supports extending the teacher probationary period to three years and expediting the process to remove bad teachers, she said.

“Getting rid of a bad teacher, and getting rid of a bad teacher faster, we’re on board with that,” Warne said. “We’ve always said we don’t protect bad teachers, we protect the process.”

It remains to be seen which, if any reforms to collective bargaining or teacher performance, win approval in the 2011 legislative session.

Moo, who has a doctorate in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon, concludes: “It’s time for the makers of the rules to change the rules – so the game can be played as much to the benefit of student learners as to the benefit of teacher unions. As Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the beleaguered public schools of the District of Columbia, put it, the problem isn’t students, ‘It’s the adults.’ ”

Audio clips:

Greg Moo, author of critique of Nevada’s collective bargaining law for teachers, says teacher tenure is a stumbling block to student achievement:

032311Moo1 :18 is really bizarre.”

Moo says the collectively bargained salary schedule for teachers rewards longevity over performance:

032311Moo2 :24 to do that.”

Teachers’ Union President Lynn Warne says states with high student achievement are collective bargaining states:

032311Warne1 :22 or NAEP scores.”

Warne says collective bargaining is not an impediment to student achievement or educational innovation:

032311Warne2 :06 or student achievement.”

Warne says the NSEA supports reforms, including improving the process to remove bad teachers:

032311Warne3 :10 protect the process.”


Governor’s Budget Could Add Another Pay Cut For Teachers

By Andrew Doughman | 8:28 am March 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Teachers could forfeit portions of their salaries awarded for obtaining masters of doctorate degrees under a new proposal.

In what could amount to a pay cut, Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed eliminating that type of compensation in favor of $20 million in performance pay.

Sandoval called the current system “costly” in his State of the State address during January. During the speech, he cited Bill Gates, who last year argued that paying teachers for advanced degrees does not help students learn more.

But Sandoval’s proposal is not just a policy change.

According to several estimates, teachers in Nevada collectively earn more than $100 million for their advanced degrees.

“Twenty million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to what we pay for master’s degrees,” said Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District.

Sandoval’s $20 million proposal would mean teachers compete for a smaller pot of money.

“We must live with current realities,” Sandoval said during his State of the State address. “Pay-for-performance is still included in my budget, just on a different scale.”

Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, said last Thursday that the governor has included the removal of pay for advanced degrees in the dozens of budget bills Sandoval recently submitted.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the proposal could mean another cut for teachers just as teachers take a 5 percent pay cut and pay an increased amount of their salaries into retirement plans. She also said the change would derail what teachers had regarded as a reliable track toward higher pay in the future.

“You are dismantling a whole culture in the teacher pay system,” Smith said. “It is a big decision point.”

Haldeman said that she would support moving the school district from paying for educational attainment to paying for performance.

“Maybe it’s time to try something new,” she said. “I just want to make sure that the funding stays.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, is on the Assembly’s education committee. He said he would also support a policy change.

“I don’t care if you got a degree from Oxford; if you’re a lousy teacher, you’re a lousy teacher,” he said. “When you’re 50th in the nation and you’ve got no money, you’ve got to do something really innovative.”

Legislative legal staff are still working on drafting the bills, so the exact effects of the governor’s bills are unclear.

But Erquiaga said that the governor’s proposal would try to prohibit school districts from explicitly paying teachers for educational attainment.

This is the same way the governor plans to cut teacher pay by 5 percent.

Teachers and school districts bargain a contract separately from the state government. So they could still sign a contract that excludes a pay cut, but the state would have given school districts 5 percent less. The school districts would then not have the money to pay teachers even as they have a contractual obligation to do so.

The governor’s budget bills should be available to read soon.

Governor’s Salary Cuts To Include Teachers, Higher-Ed Employees

By Andrew Doughman | 2:59 pm January 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval’s staff today clarified that the proposed five percent salary reductions announced yesterday includes teachers and higher-education employees.

Slashing salaries saves the state $592 million over two years when taking into account continued longevity and merit pay suspensions.

Like the governor’s proposed higher-education cuts, the governor’s staff has said it will hand over a budget reflecting the salary decreases and let school districts and Board of Regents decide what to do.

It’s going to be up to, of course, the school districts whether they want to cut the pay for all school district employees,” said Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff, during an afternoon press briefing. “We pass a law that reflects a five percent cut, but it’s up to the school districts to bargain.”

Although school districts have contractual obligations regarding pay, Gansert also said that contract negotiations are starting at both the K-12 and higher-education levels.

The governor’s staff also clarified that while contribution rates to the Public Employee Retirement system are set to increase,the rates will be applied against the lower salary.

Audio Clip: 011311Gansert :13 of staff too.”

Governor Gibbons Evaluating Strings Tied to Federal Support Before Accepting Funding

By Sean Whaley | 1:56 pm August 11th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons said today he wants to see what strings are attached to the $82 million approved by Congress this week to hire teachers in Nevada before agreeing to accept the funds.

“What we want to do is study the requirements for taking that money,” he said. “I’m prepared to say ‘thank you’. I’m prepared to say ‘thank-you but no thank-you’.”

The funding would save 1,400 teaching jobs in Nevada this year.

But Gibbons said such appropriations typically require a “maintenance of effort” that means the state has to continue to support programs after the federal funding goes away. The funding for the teachers does include a maintenance of effort requirement.

Gibbons said the state may not be able to afford to comply with the maintenance of effort requirements, hence the review.

Gibbons said he would also prefer more flexibility with the funding. Some Nevada school districts might need a computer system or textbooks rather than staff, he said.

The law appropriating the funds is still being reviewed and once the state’s obligations are clear, Gibbons said he will make a decision on whether to accept the funding.

State budget Director Andrew Clinger said another issue is that the funding is for only one year.

“So what do you do with those teachers you hire for this school year,” he said. “Come a year from now you’ve got to lay them all off because you don’t have the funding to continue the positions?”

But Gibbons acknowledged that any funding that would keep 1,400 Nevadans working, even if only for one year, has to be given serious consideration.

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment with a rate of 14.2 percent in June.

While Gibbons has yet to commit to funding, the Nevada State Education Association welcomed the action by Congress and the President.

“We commend and thank our friends in Congress who stood firm on this issue which provides federal dollars to Nevada in order to save jobs,” said NSEA President Lynn Warne. “We look now to state legislative leaders to work in the same proactive manner in creating funding sources to strengthen K-12 public education in Nevada.”

Gibbons said he is also evaluating the nearly $80 million in Medicaid funding Nevada will receive from the legislation. The money was included in the budget approved by the Legislature for this year.


Audio clips:

Gov. Gibbons says the federal funding may require a commitment the state can’t afford:

081110Gibbons1 :31 the matching dollars.”

Gibbons said he is prepared to accept or reject the funding after his review:

081110Gibbons2 :05 but no thank-you.”

Sandoval Strikes Back

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:19 pm April 13th, 2010

In a “Fact Check” statement issued a few moments ago, Team Sandoval responds to the new hit ad on their guy:

Today, the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs launches a negative attack ad against Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval. The ad, produced by a group run by Democrat Rory Reid’s former campaign manager, is Democrats attempt to help Jim Gibbons win the Republican primary.

The ad, which can be seen here, is a blatant attempt to mislead voters by distorting Brian Sandoval’s role in the 2003 Guinn v Legislature case. Based on false assumptions, the ad is a lie.

False Attack #1: Sandoval Overthrows Will Of People [Audio] Attorney General Sandoval worked to overthrow the will of the people.

False. As Attorney General, it was Brian’s job to uphold the Constitution.

In fact, in front of the Nevada Legislature, Brian testified: “This office is not going to opine on how you accomplish balancing the budget, only that you must balance the budget by July 1, 2003. How you get there is the business of this body.”

“The petition does not seek to raise taxes, Sandoval said.” (Sebelius, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/3/03)

“Direct the Legislature and its members to act by a time certain to comply with Article 11, section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Nevada by authorizing and appropriating an amount sufficient for the support and maintenance of the common schools by direct legislative appropriation from the general fund; (Petition for Writ of Mandamus, filed July 1, 2003)

False Attack #2: Sandoval: “Must Pass” Tax Increases. [Audio] Even telling the legislature it must pass tax increases.

Brian Sandoval never called for nor agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow the two-thirds provision to raise taxes.

“We didn’t seek invalidation of the two-thirds vote – the court did that on its own.” [Tom Sargent, spokesman for Attorney General’s office] (Bellisle, Reno Gazette-Journal, 7/16/03)

“…a ruling which offered a form of relief so extreme that even Gov. Kenny Guinn and state Attorney General Brian Sandoval say it went beyond anything they asked for or expected.” (Column, “Trying to Restore Constitutional Government,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 12/28/03)

In testimony to the Nevada Legislature, Brian noted, “This office is not going to opine on how you accomplish balancing the budget, only that you must balance the budget by July 1, 2003. How you get there is the business of this body.”

“The petition does not seek to raise taxes, Sandoval said.” (Sebelius, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/3/03)

“Direct the Legislature and its members to act by a time certain to comply with Article 11, section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Nevada by authorizing and appropriating an amount sufficient for the support and maintenance of the common schools by direct legislative appropriation from the general fund: (Petition for Writ of Mandamus, filed July 1, 2003)

False Attack #3: “So Sandoval personally intervened using the courts to force an 800 million dollar tax increase, the largest in Nevada history.”

This too is false. As Attorney General, it was Brian’s job to uphold the Nevada Constitution. Sandoval never called for a tax increase.

The Nevada Constitution is very clear on the three areas that led to the suit: education must be funded, the budget must be balanced by July 1, 2003, and the Legislative session is limited to 120 days. At the end of the 120-day legislative session in 2003, the Legislature hadn’t funded education or passed a budget. After two special sessions, Governor Guinn then filed suit asking the Supreme Court to intervene and compel the Legislature to both fund education and pass a balanced budget. There was no call for a tax increase.

In fact, in the very article Dan Hart’s negative attack ad cites, Glenn Cook writes, “The court, overcome with spotlight-induced black robe fever, was more than happy to exceed its constitutional authority. On a 6-1 vote, justices ruled lawmakers could pass tax increases on a simple majority vote because the Nevada Constitution presented an “irreconcilable conflict”: requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature to pass tax increases while also requiring that public education be funded.” (Column, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 09/06/09)

The fact of the matter is, the decision to invalidate the 2/3 majority requirement was done unilaterally by the Nevada Supreme Court. It is a decision Brian did not agree with then, and Brian does not agree with today.

Since Sandoval did not ask the court to raise taxes or do away with the two thirds provision, who did?  The teachers union.

“For those not used to lawyer talk, what those last two sentences clearly imply is that Ms. Chaffee suspected some improper prior communication between the court and those filing the teachers’ unions amicus briefs, to make sure those briefs included arguments that court was looking for — providing the justices a fig leaf so they could reach out and dictate a bizarre, extreme solution which even Attorney General Brian Sandoval says he and Gov. Kenny Guinn never sought.” (Column, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11/16/03)

And who is the lobbyist for the teacher’s union? Dan Hart.

And who have they endorsed for Governor? Rory Reid.

The Reid Shadow Campaign attack ad is false on its face and is designed to mislead voters. The ad is everything that is wrong with politics.

A few comments from me and then I’ll post this for now, with possible updates later.

After Sandoval filed that lawsuit at the governor’s request, the Nevada Supreme Court went off the proverbial reservation and ruled that the 2/3rds requirement ran up against the constitutional mandate to fund our schools.  And that we should therefore just, er, ignore it.  I don’t know too many folks who thought much of the ruling, and whatever you thought, it’s just a fact that Sandoval didn’t ask the court to do any such thing.

Sandoval did not tell the Legislature it must pass tax increases, just that it had to pass a balanced budget and fund the state’s schools by a certain date.  Hiking taxes or not was not up to Sandoval and was not mentioned in his appeal to the state SC.

Nonetheless, the ad is out and will be played a gazillion times and Sandoval now finds himself on the defensive on an issue that will be key to his ability to win the nomination (or not):  where he stands, Really, on taxes.

Wonder if he’ll decide signing the Tax Pledge is now the way to go after all?

Edu Gift Certs

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:21 pm February 18th, 2010

From my Inbox earlier today:


(Carson, City, NV) Governor Jim Gibbons today unveiled the Education Gift Certificate program, which he first announced during his State of the State address on February 8, 2010.

“These are hard times for all of us. The Education Gift Certificate is for anyone who wants to be able to help teachers by contributing directly to their salaries,” Gibbons said, “No administrative costs come from your contribution, and funds will be put directly into teacher salaries.”

To get an Education Gift Certificate, simply visit any DMV office or download one from the home page of the State of Nevada web site,, or the Governor’s web site,

Education Gift Certificates are sent directly to the Nevada Department of Education and deposited into the Education Gift Fund established in Nevada Revised Statutes 385.095, and will not be used for any purpose other than funding teacher salaries.

Education comprises 54 percent of Nevada’s General Fund budget. For K-12 education, reports indicate as much as 85 percent of school district funds to teacher salaries.

“While many Nevadans are struggling to make ends meet, there are some Nevadans who can afford to help Nevada by helping our education system,” Governor Gibbons said, “I hope those who can afford to contribute will step forward and be a part of the solution by helping our hardworking teachers.”

I really doubt this is going to raise much money.

Maybe they should do like the Catholic churches sometimes do with inscribing bricks, benches, chairs and plaques with the names of donors and post or engrave Edu Gift Cert givers names on something somewhere.  And with or without that, I could see people giving more generously to teachers at specific schools than to a central Fund.

As for the education budget in general, I’m reminded of statements Clark  County school board candidate Barbara Altman made at the Las Vegas town hall meeting on Saturday.  Earned her a huge round of applause from a room that was largely made up of teachers:

(1)  “How do we know what needs to be cut if we can’t see the budgets?  Put the entire education budget in every county online and then everyone around the state can look at it and see where cuts can be made.”

(2)  “It isn’t the teachers’ salaries that is the problem.  The teachers sitting in this room are afraid to say it, so I’ll say it for them:  It’s the salaries of the administrators, the superintendents, the assistants and the assistants to the assistants.  It’s the huge paychecks at the top and the salaries of other non-teaching, non-essential staff.  They add up, and it’s huge.  But nobody will say that or do anything about it, so it’s the teachers who will see cuts and suffer.”