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Nevada Senate candidate favors teacher pay raises

Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, a retired teacher running for the state Senate, argued Thursday for across-the-board pay raises for teachers, saying it will make Nevada more competitive and reward hard work in overcrowded classrooms.

But Dondero Loop wouldn’t take a definitive position on whether she supports or opposes a proposed 2 percent margins tax on businesses aimed at boosting education spending. She said she believes in adding money to the K-through-12 system but fears businesses will be hurt if Question 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot passes.

“As it stands right now, I support education funding, but I absolutely worry about small businesses,” Dondero Loop said in an interview with the Review-Journal editorial board. “To be honest with you, I don’t know that I’ve made a decision.”

Dondero Loop called the proposed margins tax flawed because it would tax businesses making $1 million or more in annual revenue, whether or not the company is profitable or just making ends meet. She’s among Democrats who have been reluctant to support Question 3, which GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and other Republicans strongly oppose.

If the ballot initiative doesn’t pass on Nov. 4, Dondero Loop said she hopes the business community, including mining and casino resorts, will come together to work with the 2015 Legislature and Sandoval to approve some sort of business levy that would affect more than one or two industries to better fund education.

Asked what any additional money should be used for, Dondero Loop named three priorities: classroom materials, professional development for teachers and boosting teacher salaries.

“I’d like to see everybody get a bump,” she said. “People should be rewarded for doing a good job.”

Dondero Loop rejected the idea, however, of selectively increasing salaries of teachers based on merit, including teacher evaluations and how their students are doing. She questioned how such a merit system would work.

“I don’t want individuals or schools to be rewarded” based on a merit system, she said. “You have a finite amount of money. What if all of us at the table are doing a great job, how will they decide where to stop?”

Asked what should happen to bad teachers, Dondero Loop said they should be evaluated and let go. She added, however, that schools should provide more mentoring and professional development to improve teacher performance.

Another education priority is building new schools with Clark County needing as many as 23, mostly elementary, she said.

Dondero Loop supported the idea of rolling over existing school bonds for another two years in order to provide immediate funding for construction. She said she hoped the 2015 Legislature, which begins its session in February, acts quickly on the matter, an idea she suggested has bipartisan support.

Dondero Loop is running against Republican Patricia Farley and Independent American Party member Jon Kamerath in Senate District 8. The open Las Vegas seat is now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who is running for secretary of state.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702 387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.

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