May 2, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Legislative Democrats have spent considerable breath in recent months paying tribute to “accountability” for the public school system. As the Legislature enters its final month, that’s looking more and more like a false front.
In January, Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, proposed spending billions more on Nevada’s schools while also demanding higher test scores. Democrats in Carson City have long sought such an infusion of cash. They’re also reluctant to look as if they don’t expect academic improvement in return.
Suddenly, accountability was all the rage. Democrats proposed bills in Carson City to audit the Clark County School District. Senate and Assembly leaders demanded that school superintendents appear before lawmakers to explain how they planned to boost student outcomes and otherwise improve the system.
Yet with just weeks left to sift through the remaining legislative business, the Democratic majorities in both houses have passed nothing that could remotely be described as a public school accountability measure. Quite the contrary.
Democrats looked askance during hearings last week at the governor’s Read by 3 proposal, which includes a retention provision for students who aren’t proficient in reading by the end of third grade. They remain opposed to the ultimate accountability program, education savings accounts, a form of school choice that they previously put on ice.
And now they’re considering Assembly Bill 269, which would weaken the state’s already lax teacher evaluation process. AB269, the brainchild of Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, D-Las Vegas, would allow certain teachers who have received two straight positive evaluations to opt out of the process for a year. It would also drop student performance from the equation.
This latter provision is a travesty. In January, Clark County School District officials revealed that just 50 teachers in the nation’s fifth-largest school district — .33 percent — had been rated “ineffective” or “developing.” This, despite the fact that the district’s proficiency scorecard remains abysmal. Lawmakers should be strengthening the evaluation process, not gutting it further.
The 2023 Legislature bears a resemblance to the 2015 session when it comes to education. Back then, a Republican governor proposed higher education spending, but demanded reforms intended to drive results. Legislative Democrats, eager for the new cash, paid lip service to improving student achievement. Then they later killed or diluted virtually every reform intended to encourage that result.
Education accountability has long been kryptonite to state Democrats. There’s no indication the 2023 session will be any different. Which makes it even more important that Gov. Lombardo tolerate little compromise in his efforts to ensure that taxpayers get even a modest return on billions in new school funding.