Governor helpfully parades out a former governor who actually spent huge sums to improve education

It was mighty nice of Gov. Brian Sandoval to dredge up and drag onto stage a living, breathing illustration of just how effective his plan to spend nearly a billion dollars on educational improvements will be.

During Wednesday’s hours-long orgasmic paean to the perks of plucking $250 million a year in higher business license fees from the private sector, Gov. Brian Sandoval invited three former governors to testify for his Senate Bill 252, which is basically margin tax lite, a thinner version of the tax proposal rejected by voters in November by 80 percent to 20 percent. One of those formers was Bob Miller, who served as governor from 1987 through 1998.

Miller pushed for and the 1989 Legislature approved a class-size reduction in grades first through third.

“I along with many people in this room have been fighting to modernize our education system through both reforms and the creation of a stable broad-based funding source, and this session is the best opportunity we will likely ever have to reach this goal,” Miller testified before a joint meeting of the state Senate and Assembly taxation panels. “In the 1990s our focus, mine and the Legislature, was on class-size reduction and early childhood programs like family to family and family resource centers, enhancing technology in our classrooms and a study on standards assessment accountability, but here we are today, and as most of you know, the statistics are depressing about our state’s education system.”

He went on to cite the facts that students are reading below grade level and 30 percent aren’t graduating from high school.

Since 1990 the state has spent close to $2.5 billion on Miller’s class-size reduction — which like Sandoval’s plans for all-day kindergarten, early childhood education and various special million-dollar programs was a no-brainer at the time — but the results have been nil. In fact, in some cases the results have run counter to what was expected.

A 2001 report by the Legislative Counsel Bureau found that, while principals, teachers, and parents were very positive in their attitudes toward class-size reduction, achievement data did not produce exceptional results. Students in larger classes outperformed those in the smaller classes.

Twenty-five years and billions of dollars later Miller is back and saying the system is broken and we need to spend billions of dollars more on special programs.

Two ideas Sandoval has put forward, but without much specificity, might improve things: stop promoting third graders who cannot read and provide incentive pay to teachers whose students show improvement on assessment tests. Neither costs anything more than is currently being spent.

Test scores for reading (blue) and math (red) for Washoe and rural schools by class size

Test scores for reading (blue) and math (red) for Washoe and rural schools by class size

Test scores for reading (yellow) and math (green) by class size in Clark County

Test scores for reading (yellow) and math (green) by class size in Clark County


James Guthrie, who served as Nevada’s  State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2013 to 2014, said in an article posted on Nevada Policy Research Institute’s website:

The governor’s budget would spend additional millions on timid reforms such as expanded preschool, English language learning, opportunities for gifted students, staff for low performing schools, opposing cyber bullying, facility construction and more personnel for the State Education Department.

These proposals appear to be guided more by political expediency — greasing squeaky wheels  — than a goal of effective education. Moreover, by proposing to spend public dollars in less than fully productive ways, the governor’s plan risks the future of tens of thousands of students now trapped in underperforming schools.

The absence of a clear focus on a few high-return strategies wastes money, hurts students and squanders opportunity.

To counter low academic achievement, Nevada must recruit and retain larger numbers of effective teachers, place them where they are most needed and reward them for high performance. No new technology, textbook, class-size reduction, professional development or physical facility can substitute for effective teachers.

By identifying the most effective 10 percent of Nevada’s teachers and offering to pay them $200,000 a year in exchange for additional teaching and mentoring responsibilities, Nevada could become a magnet for teaching talent. As a state, we would have our pick of the nation’s best teachers. This entire plan can be accomplished with existing financial resources by repurposing dollars currently wasted on class-size reduction.

Nevada’s public schools lack accountability. No adults feel pain when children persistently fail.






2 comments on “Governor helpfully parades out a former governor who actually spent huge sums to improve education

  1. Athos says:

    The real problem with this system is the jerks could save billion$, but that would mean cutting the non-teaching professionals. And of course, insisting that English is the only language spoken and forcing parents to teach their children English before going to school.

    There is something seriously wrong when 2nd and 3rd generation Americans can’t speak the English language. Illegals need not send their kids to school, just go back home, and apply for citizenship like you’re supposed to do!

    There. I just saved us Billion$.

  2. Barbara says:

    You are absolutely right Athos.

    My daughter is a junior at a magnet school in Las Vegas. This school has both a magnet program as well as regular public school. She joined a new program wherein upper classman mentor incoming freshman. They are to offer tutoring, showing the freshman around school, getting them to join activities, etc.

    The grading system does not allow teachers to give a kid a 0 on any assignment. The minimum grade is a 50 even if the kid only writes his name on the paper and turns it in. He does not have to answer any questions, do any work and he will “earn” a 50. Consequently, of the 15 freshman assigned to my daughter and her partner, only 1 had any desire to learn. She would call their home and speak to a parent (in Spanish), request a call back from the kid, and never receive a return phone call. When she would try to get them to finish an assignment, they would tell her they didn’t want to do it and a 50 was fine. They felt they could raise their grade to a D by doing the easy assignments only, and thereby pass the class. When her assigned Freshman were showing no improvement, she was told she was not doing a good job of mentoring.

    Unfortunately, she begged me not to go to the school, saying she would handle it. I told her that was fine, but she was to make it clear that she would no longer be a part of such a program. These “professional” educators could think of nothing but to blame upper classman for the failing system they created.

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