Even the teachers union is admitting that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s education plan won’t fix school district budget problems.
On Wednesday, Sisolak laid out his plan for education in Nevada. He left in place the categorical spending created by former Gov. Brian Sandoval. That funding covers programs such as Zoom and Victory Schools and Read by 3. Money for Zoom schools started in 2013, and Sandoval funded his other education initiatives with his 2015 tax hike.
While Nevada’s education establishment claims these programs are working, evidence suggests otherwise. The National Assessment of Education Progress is known as the Nation’s Report Card and can’t be tweaked by state bureaucrats. The results aren’t good. From 2013 to 2017, average scores and the number of proficient students have decreased for fourth-grade math and eighth-grade math and reading. The only slightly positive results are in fourth-grade reading. The number of proficient students went from 27 percent to 31 percent. Average scores increased by only 1 point on a 500-point scale.
Education officials like to brag about Nevada’s increased graduation rate. They’re less eager to mention that the increase is due in part to eliminating the high school proficiency exam, which covered ninth-grade material.
That’s a full-scale disaster in any arena but government.
The only potential positive in Sisolak’s plan is that he didn’t call for eliminating the retention aspect of Read by 3. The program — which demands that children who lack proper reading skills by the end of third grade be held back — was initiated in 2015 but won’t affect students until the end of the 2020 school year. Some legislative Democrats want to eliminate or water down the retention requirement, so this desperately needed accountability measure isn’t safe yet.
The headline piece of Sisolak’s education plan was a one-time 3 percent raise for teachers. Sisolak didn’t even try to explain how paying the same people more money to do the same thing would increase student achievement. It won’t. It’s a payoff to a special-interest group he favors.
Sisolak’s budget contains other education dollars that can go toward teacher raises, but it’s not going to satisfy the teachers unions. John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association said, “This is a start, but it’s not the end game.”
Sisolak’s education plan won’t even prevent the budget drama that the Clark County School District has gone through over the past two years.
“The lack of base funding for education could mean school districts across the state will again be forced to make difficult budget cuts by 2020,” the Nevada State Education Association said.
Those “cuts” would actually be smaller than desired increases, but NSEA is right that Sisolak’s plan won’t fix district budget drama. That’s because of Nevada’s collective bargaining laws. No matter how much money Nevada gives the district, its unions can ask for just a little bit more in salary negotiations. If those negotiations reach an impasse, an unelected, unaccountable arbitrator decides the dispute. The first thing he or she will look at — per state law — is the district’s ability to pay.
That’s why you can’t fix Nevada’s broken education system by shoveling money into it. You must reform collective bargaining and give parents options through school choice.
Instead, you have Sisolak’s education plan: Pay more for more of the same.