Blocking progress

Meaningful education reform has always had a snowball's chance in Hades of passing the Legislature, and the biggest reason why was front and center Monday in Carson City.

Majority Democrats have proposed watered-down versions of reforms sought by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Democratic lawmakers, longtime defenders of Nevada's education establishment, finally have acknowledged that, yes, it's currently too difficult to fire bad teachers.

So the Assembly passed two bills, AB229 and AB225, that were supposed to inch toward that goal. Those bills are now before the Senate.

But lobbyists for the Nevada State Education Association, testifying before the Senate Education Committee, said the legislation, which barely registers on the reform Richter scale, must be diluted even more. Ever preoccupied with protecting the worst teachers at the expense of the best, the teacher union presented a laughable hypothetical scenario:

"If someone is accused of stealing money out of a student fund, they should have the right to defend themselves against their accuser," lobbyist Craig Stevens said. "This bill (AB229) takes that away."

Not so. The bill merely gives principals the ability to immediately fire probationary teachers under exceptional circumstances.

"We can't assume a principal will fire a good teacher for no good reason," Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, offered. "We have to assume (they) are rational."

Gov. Sandoval wants to end teacher tenure, which locks most instructors into their jobs regardless of performance after just a single year of service. The Democrats' plans call for extending teachers' and administrators' probationary period to three years while still denying school districts the ability to fire any teacher or administrator -- newly hired or veteran -- after two years of unsatisfactory evaluations.

And teacher unions still find this unacceptable.

If both parties agree that we must speed up the process for getting rid of bad teachers, and the teacher unions manage to not only block such legislation, but win all-new protections for weak instructors, there is no hope for education reform in Nevada.