New Reid ad stars teacher whose job wasn't on the chopping block

In Sen. Harry Reid's new campaign ad, kindergarten teacher Bridget Zick praises the senator for passing the Recovery Act to save 3,500 Nevada education jobs.

"We're still teaching because of Harry Reid. That's the power he has," says Zick, who is the sole star of the 30-second TV commercial.

But, it turns out, Zick's specific job wasn't on the chopping block. That's not mentioned in the ad, which gives the impression the stimulus kept Zick in the classroom with her kids.

Ronzone Elementary School in Las Vegas where Zick teaches didn't get any of the $445 million in education money that went to Nevada as part of the big stimulus package.

And the elementary school didn't lay off any of its 65 teachers, according to the principal.

"We're lucky that we haven't lost any teachers," said principal Brett Booth, who said the school didn't get any recovery funds. "We're one of the schools that has seen a boost in enrollment."

Still, Booth said any extra education funding "is welcome" for the Clark County School District, which has avoided major layoffs.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid's campaign, said in the ad Zick is representing all Nevada educators whose jobs have been saved by the stimulus.

"She is speaking on behalf of teachers," Summers said in an e-mail when asked to clarify whether her job had been saved.

Summers said the Nevada Department of Education "didn't specify in its reports which schools would have had to lay off teachers."

"Stimulus funding went to the Clark County School District, so there is no doubt the funding benefited that school," Summers added, referring to Zick's school.

Later, Summers added that it's up to the Clark County School District and not the principal to decide if somebody gets laid off since funding decisions are made at the higher level.

"The Clark County School District actually makes the decision about whether there'll have to be layoffs, and where they'll come from," Summers said.

However, principals do make staffing decisions, such as where to make cuts if district officials call for reductions in force at each school.

Clark County School Board member Carolyn Edwards said in the case of layoffs, the teachers' contract requires they be made according to seniority. Newest employees would be the first to go.

Zick, who is in her third year of teaching, might only have been in jeopardy if the initial estimate of 2,000 potential layoffs materialized, Edwards said. She also said the district made its own reductions in services, including raising class sizes, to avoid layoffs.

"The fact is we don't know how many teachers would have been laid off if we hadn't gotten that money," Edwards said. "The (stimulus) money saved jobs, but it didn't save specific jobs."

In a news release accompanying the new ad, Zick is quoted as saying she would be out of a job without the stimulus spending, however.

"In Sharron Angle's Nevada, I'm out of a job," Zick is quoted as saying, referring to Reid's Republican Senate opponent.

"She opposes the Economic Recovery Act and wants to kill the Department of Education, two of the reasons I'm not unemployed right now."

Zick also spoke at a rally in Las Vegas to promote the ad, along with dozens of other school administrators and teachers, whose union supports Reid.

"I don't want to be on another ad that says that I lost my job," Zick said, adding that if Angle beats Reid in November, "I'm sure that my job will probably be null and void."

Before the ad was made, Zick openly backed Reid's campaign. Her name is on an "educators for Reid" list as well as on an updated "Republicans for Reid" list of supporters.

Angle has said she wants to shut down the Education Department to cut the federal budget and allow more local control of schools, including money and programs. She and other Republicans have objected to federal mandates and what she calls "one size fits all" standards that haven't improved Nevada's dismal education performance.

"This ad is yet another smokescreen used to distract voters from the fact that after all his years in Washington he hasn’t been able to use his ‘influence’ to improve education for our state," Angle said in a statement that noted she's a teacher as well. "The truth is that while Nevada sinks to the bottom in educational performance, Harry Reid continues to grasp on to this belief that Nevada schools would somehow improve with the expansion of big government programs that provide little in the way of results, yet cost the taxpayers billions."

Reid's campaign, in turn, slammed Angle for opposing accountability programs that it says would improve schools.

"When it comes to strengthening Nevada's classrooms and building a competitive workforce in our state, Sharron Angle just doesn't get it," said Kelly Steele, Reid's communications director.