A start at reform

The forthcoming report of the governor's Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force leads off with an admission that Nevadans "have abandoned this responsibility (of public education). By all measures, we have failed our children."

No one without a vested interest in the status quo, no one who has watched a typical recent graduate struggle to spell simple words, form possessives or count change when their computers go down, can find much fault with the premise.

The task force report will not suggest higher spending. Budget recommendations were "not part of the original charge of the governor to us," explains task force Co-Chairman and Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich.

Rather, the report calls for allowing schools deemed to be "persistently failing" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to become charter schools, which could give them some additional freedom to implement change, and for increasing the probationary period for new teachers from one year to three years.

The panel also proposes having the governor appoint the state superintendent of public instruction and members of the State Board of Education.

Members of the state board are now elected. They, in turn, hire the state superintendent.

The current state education governance structure is so convoluted it "resembles more of a spaghetti bowl than a rocket ship to get us to our dreams," noted Punam Mathur, who led the task force's governance committee and serves as vice president for human resources at NV Energy.

The proposed reforms are all worth considering.

Voters are understandably reluctant to give up their power to elect any state official, but it's unlikely most voters could even explain what members of the State Board of Education actually do.

The big question is whether the proposals go far enough in introducing real competition to a system that has a tendency to close ranks and resist real accountability for each student having mastered the material necessary before moving on to the next grade.