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School district’s bill proposals highlight hypocrisy on regulations

State law requires prospective teachers to understand the U.S. and Nevada constitutions.

If the Clark County School District gets its way, new teachers won’t have to.

And that’s a good thing.

The district gets to request two bill drafts each regular session of the Nevada Legislature. Senate Bill 20, sought by the district in this year’s session, would repeal the constitutional-knowledge requirement.

On the surface, it sounds like a terrible idea. Of all the hoops new teachers have to jump through, ensuring teachers understand the founding documents of our country and state is one of the most defensible.

But that’s the problem. The testing requirement is a hoop to jump through. An obstacle to a job. And it’s unnecessary.

School Board Trustee Erin Cranor relayed the story of an orchestra teacher who came to Nevada but ultimately returned to his home state because of this requirement. As someone with a child in kindergarten, I can personally attest that a teacher’s knowledge of the Constitution has no impact on the ability to teach the ABCs.

It will be easy to attack supporters of SB20 as lawmakers who don’t value the Constitution. It’s the same sleazy tactic the far left is currently using against Attorney General-nominee Jeff Sessions. Sessions supported the Violence Against Women Act in 2000 and 2005 but opposed the 2013 authorization based on specific add-ons in that bill. Liberals are using the 2013 vote to imply that he doesn’t oppose sexual assault and that he supports evil.

SB20, however, isn’t a litmus test on whether you care about the Constitution. It’s about eliminating barriers to entry. Occupational licensing is a significant restriction in dozens of Nevada industries, and lawmakers should take an ax to as many licensing requirements as possible, including this one.

Although the school district wants to remove obstacles to hiring teachers, it’s simultaneously pushing — with Assembly Bill 78, its other request — to impose onerous new hoops on charter schools. The system wants to make new charter school applicants justify the need for their school based on “population growth, demographic changes and the academic needs of the pupils” and require that new charters consult with the school district on the same factors.

Charter applicants think about these factors before they invest significant amounts of money and time into opening a school.

School district lobbyist Craig Stevens claims the bill is an effort to “save taxpayer dollars” by ensuring schools aren’t too close together, but it’s more akin to Albertsons wanting to require that Smith’s consult with its competitor on new store locations.

Students benefit when they have as many choices as possible, not when the largest player can influence and dictate where alternatives operate — or if they open at all.

There’s plenty of evidence that the school district’s motives are anything but benign. Stevens acknowledged that the “decision of our board is not to authorize anymore charter schools,” and the board opposes school choice initiatives such as Education Savings Accounts. In fact, lawmakers created a new state agency, the Nevada Charter School Authority, in part, because school districts had stopped authorizing new charter schools.

Rather than oppose some regulatory barriers while supporting others, the school district should support removing obstacles across the board.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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