Gov. Brian Sandoval uses veto pen wisely

Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday vetoed the bill that would have allowed some Nevada high school seniors to receive full-fledged diplomas despite failing one of the four sections of the state High School Proficiency Exam.

To qualify for the exemption, students who were neither troublemakers nor incorrigible truants would have had to pass just three of the four parts of the test, in addition to passing all required courses with at least a 2.75 grade-point average.

Assembly Bill 456 passed the Assembly 33-9 and the Senate 13-8. Republicans voted in opposition.

Why did many Clark County School District administrators favor this proposal? The emphasis on attendance over academic attainment is telling. If students with C-plus averages can’t pass the math test after six tries (yes, six) over more than two years, can they at least spell “grade inflation”?

“Isn’t it better to have these avenues for graduation,” asked Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards, “rather than have dropouts?”

In fact, it’s far preferable to have consistent, reasonable standards for a high school diploma. Such a watering down of standards would have been an affront to the majority of students who pass the proficiency exam every year without trouble. Their accomplishments would have been tarred with suspicion in order to benefit what the district estimated are a mere 100 students per year — about three per high school — who otherwise qualify but can’t pass all parts of the exam.

These standards give the diploma its value. They tell colleges and employers a Nevada high school graduate can read and write English proficiently, has mastered important math skills and has an acceptable understanding of science — that they’re capable of paying attention and learning.

“Although this bill may allow more students to graduate from high school, it represents diminished expectations for our students and lower standards for obtaining a high school diploma,” Gov. Sandoval said in his veto message.

“In my State of the State address, I said that our education system emphasizes too many of the wrong things. AB456 is another example of this paradigm and would send the wrong message to our students. … Because this bill provides a way to hide or ignore a student’s achievement problems, rather than fix it, I veto it.”

Thank goodness.

The governor also vetoed AB253 and AB254, which would have increased regulations and fines for workplace safety.

Safety is important, but it would be hard to imagine a worse time to layer more regulations, more inspections, more fines and bureaucracy on Nevada’s struggling employers, all for marginal safety gains.

Gov. Sandoval seems to believe keeping our remaining employers in business, and encouraging them to hire new employees, is more important. We agree.

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