Lawmaker says education reform bill would let bad teachers keep jobs

CARSON CITY -- An education reform bill from Democrats would allow bad teachers to remain too long in classrooms before being fired, a lone Republican legislator charged Wednesday.

"Having a good teacher is the most important factor in the classroom," Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, told other members of the Assembly Education Committee. "I don't understand why you are giving that big of a window to an unsatisfactory teacher."

If the bill passes, inferior teachers could remain in classrooms for three years, he said.

Hansen objected to the provisions in Assembly Bill 229, an education reform plan unveiled by Democrats last week that would set up a system of merit pay and create policies to dismiss poor employees.

He also criticized a provision in another Democrat reform bill, AB222, that would give only union teachers a chance to serve on a council to establish professional evaluation standards. The bills were introduced Wednesday in the Assembly.

Assembly Education Committee Chairman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said the bills eventually would be referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for additional discussions.

Hansen was the only one who opposed the provisions on how probationary teachers and administrators would be treated.

In contrast, a line of school administrators, including officials from the Clark County School District, praised Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and other Democrats for introducing AB229 and two other education reform bills, including AB225, which requires educators who receive unsatisfactory reviews for two consecutive years to re-enter a probationary period.

Currently, an employee can serve two one-year probationary periods. If the employee receives a satisfactory evaluation after the first year, then the second probationary year is waived and the employee receives tenure. The proposed reform calls for three one-year probationary periods without any waivers.

A bill being drafted for GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval would eliminate tenure for teachers.

In response to Hansen, Smith said the goal of the bills is to give underperforming teachers a chance to improve.

"We need changes to support our good teachers, as well as helping teachers who need assistance," she said. "In no way do we have an epidemic of bad teachers."

Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, said he literally "sweat every day" the first year he was a teacher in Clark County.

"It is not easy to step right into the classroom. It takes time," Munford said. "You need to see where you need to improve. I hung around for 36 years."

Hansen also was the sole legislator to criticize a section in AB222 which would create a 16-member Teachers and Leaders Council of Nevada. The group would establish performance standards for teachers and administrators. Fifty percent of a teacher's performance would depend on the achievement of students.

What irked Hansen was a clause that would require the governor to appoint four teachers to the council from a list provided by the Nevada State Education Association, an umbrella organization for state teacher and education employee unions. Hansen said he has a relative who is a teacher who would be prevented from serving on the council because she does not belong to a union. His objections were echoed by a nonunion Clark County teacher.

Smith said it has been "accepted practice" to give governors lists of teachers or administrators from professional associations if someone from those professions needs to serve on a board.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.