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EDITORIAL: Here come the bad education bills in Carson City

Members of the education establishment talk a lot these days about accountability. They’re sensitive to the fact that, when they’re panhandling for additional public funds, many taxpayers will demand to know what they’ll receive for their money.

But actions speak louder than words. And the notion that the state’s education unions are serious about being held to account for performance has already been exposed in Carson City as a charade.

Consider Senate Bill 126.

The measure was introduced this week by state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and would, in essence, make it more difficult for school districts to get rid of poor administrators.

Current law, passed in 2015, mandates that certain school administrators reapply to the district every five years to keep their jobs. It also designated principals as “at-will” for the first three years to make sure they are up to the task.

The intent, of course, was to ensure that struggling principals can’t simply hold on to their jobs in perpetuity and to give supervisors the opportunity to re-evaluate midlevel administrators every five years to ensure they’re performing effectively in their leadership roles. It’s not a very large burden, but at least it’s something.

SB126, however, would eliminate these modest checks and even calls for, under certain circumstances, removing “admonitions” from an administrator’s personnel files. In reality, the bill will have minimal effect, given that few principals — or teachers, for that matter — are ever fired. But the symbolism is clear.

Nor will this be the only legislative proposal to gut accountability standards imposed to improve academic performance. As sure as the sun rises in the east, there will be many more given that government unions will dominate the 2019 session. And just wait until Democratic lawmakers, eager to shield their political patrons in the teacher unions, get their hands on Read by 3.

Passed in 2015 as part of former Gov. Brian Sandoval’s landmark education reform package, Read by 3 dictates that Nevada students who are not reading-proficient by the end of third grade be held back. Critics argue that retention is a poor strategy. Perhaps. But simply pushing little Johnny up the ladder when he lacks the basic skills to succeed — in other words, the status quo — is an astonishingly cynical and damaging approach.

The statute will be implemented for the 2020-21 school year — and if past performance is any indication, as many as 7,000 children in Clark County could face retention. Read by 3 threatens to expose a massive fraud perpetrated on parents and kids. That’s why it’s an almost certain bet that legislative Democrats will move to repeal the measure or create enough exemptions and loopholes to neuter the reform.

For the education establishment, accountability is great in principle. In practice? Not so much.

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