Number 5: Will the Legislature stop the CCEA from blocking Jones’ school-reform plan?

Victor Joecks

In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m going to be listing my 12 favorite Write on Nevada posts from 2011. We’ll be counting down the top five this week. We love to get your feedback, so please leave your thoughts in the comments. Here’s number 5.


Thoughts on this post: Here’s a snapshot of who is stopping meaningful and proven education reform in Nevada – union officials who do everything they can to defend the status quo and protect bad teachers. Look for this battle to continue in 2012, although, both in Nevada and nationally, more and more people are realizing that reform is needed.

Will the Legislature stop the CCEA from blocking Jones’ school-reform plan?


Yesterday, I wrote about Superintendent Dwight Jones’ awesome-sounding plans for education reform in CCSD. Last night at the school board meeting, Jones unveiled more of his plans, and they sound … even more awesome.

Teachers’ pay would be tied to performance, private charter schools could take over ineffective public schools and principals would gain power under a Clark County School District re¬organization blueprint unveiled Thursday by Superintendent Dwight Jones.

Take a moment and read the Review-Journal’s whole article, because this plan sounds like a great chance to introduce reforms that would lead to better teachers and greater student achievement.

So who could be opposed to substantial reforms that would benefit Nevada’s students? The teacher union.

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, which represents district teachers, noted that many of Jones’ proposals would “require union action.”

“I know a lot of our teachers would be very opposed” to replacing the salary schedule, Murillo said. “It’s a traditional way of paying teachers so it’s fair and equitable.”

Murillo said he would have to speak with Jones about the proposals. Formal talks on a new labor agreement have not begun because the union and the district are waiting for lawmakers to pass a state budget, he said.

Murillo’s objections are ridiculous. Consider this statement – “It’s a traditional way of paying teachers so it’s fair and equitable.” Really, that’s your argument? We’ve been doing it for a long time, so it’s fair? It’s fair that we reward teachers for seniority and degrees instead of how good a teacher they are?

It’s not fair for the super-talented young teacher who doesn’t get rewarded for how good he or she is. It’s not fair to our kids who are struck in classrooms with bad teachers. And it’s not fair to taxpayers who are paying more for two factors that have little to no relationship to teacher quality.

Of course, Murillo’s statements tell you all you need to know about the CCEA and its priorities – make sure all teachers get paid the same regardless of ability and only give raises for things unrelated to how effective a teacher is.

The real question is: Why is the CCEA, which along with the NSEA has been doing its best to kill or water down education reforms at the Legislature, allowed to block meaningful reform?

Amazingly enough, the CCEA is only in a position to block these reforms because of power they are given by the Nevada Legislature in NRS 288.

Why is it so hard to remove a teacher who’s not teaching and replace that teacher with one who is?

In Nevada, it’s because Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes compels school districts to negotiate long, difficult and costly step-by-step procedures that district administrators must follow to terminate a teacher. Moreover, NRS 288 requires that school districts must collectively bargain with teacher unions on a whole shopping list of “subjects” – making contract agreements between school districts and teacher unions into cumbersome obstacles to any school district effort to improve students.

For example, NRS 288 mandates that school districts bargain “total hours of work required,” “policies for assignment of teachers,” “materials for the classroom,” “procedures for reduction in workforce,” and “discharge and disciplinary procedures,” to mention but five of some 28 compulsory subjects.

What results are pages and pages of contract provisions that, over years of negotiation cycles, end up damaging student achievement.

Aside from copying the reforms passed by Florida, the best thing the Legislature could do to increase student achievement is to repeal NRS 288 and give Jones a clear shot at implementing the awesome-sounding reforms he’s proposing.