State on sideline for 'race to top'

Nevada has been shut out of debt-financed federal largess yet again, and the state's union and political establishments have no one to blame but themselves.

Legislative Democrats and their masters in the public sector go after "free" federal dollars -- despite all the strings that come attached to them -- every chance they get. The money allows them to inflate baseline budgets and expand program offerings, then clamor for higher state taxes to support the initiatives whenever the federal tax dollars run out.

But when the Obama administration offered Nevada a chance to compete for "Race to the Top" education grants, the teacher unions and their Democratic hand puppets in the Assembly made sure the state's schools stood as little chance as possible to collect.

The grants, intended to spur classroom innovation, go only to states that attempt to evaluate teachers based on student test scores. Years ago, Nevada's teacher unions essentially wrote a statute that forbids the use of test scores in teacher evaluations.

During a February special session, lawmakers tried to amend the law in a way that would allow Nevada to apply for the grants, yet keep unionized teachers from being held accountable for dismal classroom performance. Fifteen words that banned the use of test scores from evaluations were replaced with 31 words that prohibited test scores from being the "sole criteria" in teacher evaluations or disciplinary actions.

Even though lawmakers and educators were warned that the amendment didn't go far enough, the state then paid a consultant $40,000 to complete Nevada's application for the grant.

On Tuesday, Nevada schools officials learned they were eliminated from consideration for the grants.

We're no fans of federal intervention in state schools. That Nevada isn't getting aid intended to create new programs, rather than bail out existing ones, is a good thing given our economic woes.

But this failure can't be pinned on Nevada's supposedly antiquated tax structure. No, this is the fault of legislative Democrats and the teacher unions. And they should be made to repay the $40,000 blown on this wasted effort.