Protecting mediocrity

Last year, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval won a handful of education reforms in a budget compromise with legislative Democrats. Among the reforms was a provision barring teacher layoffs based solely on seniority. Finally, the most effective public school teachers could be retained during tough times – or so voters thought.

But Democrats watered down the legislation enough to leave the exact layoff procedures subject to collective bargaining. And the Clark County Education Association’s final contract offer – the one chosen by an out-of-state arbitrator, the one preserving the big raises that led to the Clark County School District’s current round of layoffs – largely preserves seniority-based reductions in force.

Which is how it came to pass that, a month and day after Sewell Elementary fifth-grade teacher Edward Savarese was honored as one of the district’s seven New Teachers of the Year, he got a pink slip. Teacher seniority was the decider in 91 percent of June’s 419 layoffs.

“It drives me nuts how the union protects the mediocrity,” agreed Mr. Savarese, adding that the CCEA should allow student test scores, parent reviews or anything reflective of job performance to count ahead of seniority.

Fortunately for Mr. Savarese – and that largely ignored constituency, Clark County children – an administrator at Hancock Elementary spotted his name on the layoff list and snatched him up, calling him for an interview before the pink slip even reached his mailbox.

But one happy ending doesn’t change the fact that the union foot-draggers have again stymied the will of the governor, the Legislature, and the majority of parents, keeping bad teachers in the classroom, sacrificing educational quality and competition in favor of maintaining industrial-era work rules and salary schedules.

“Last in, first out” provides job security for teachers who either won’t or can’t inspire their kids, based simply on their cobweb count, while ensuring that some top-performing, less-experienced teachers will get the ax. And we’re still stuck with it. It’s one more law the Legislature needs to fix.

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