Education reform package in works

Democrats say over the coming week they will roll out a multipronged package of bills to reform public education in Nevada.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats intend to involve both the minority members of the Legislature as well as Gov. Brian Sandoval in the process, which will range from strengthening charter schools to teacher development to making it easier to remove bad teachers from the classroom.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said education is critical to economic development in Nevada and that the key is a highly effective teacher in the classroom. He said he will present legislation to "make it less onerous to dismiss the bad teachers."

"Good teachers' efforts are too often overshadowed by the actions of the bad ones," he said.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said legislation will create a pay for performance program to reward good teachers for their efforts.

"We've got many great educators that deserve to be rewarded for their success," he said. "We've got some who don't belong in the classroom."

He said his plan will extend probationary status for new teachers from one year to three years and those who get negative evaluations "will receive notice they might not have their contracts renewed." He said contracts also will get a gross misconduct clause "so we can dismiss the teachers who do really bad things now."

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the process of evaluating teachers and administrators will also be strengthened dramatically. One part of her plan, she said, would put tenured teachers who get two consecutive annual unsatisfactory evaluations back on probationary status.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said his plan will create a Nevada Reading Skills Development Center to help teachers learn how to better teach elementary students to read. Another, he said, will encourage development of science, technology, engineering and math education.

Horsford said he would create a separate state board with seven members to manage charter schools. Those schools still would have to follow and meet state standards but he said they need more flexibility to encourage creative approaches to education.

He said all the bills will be introduced soon with hearings as early as next week on some of them.


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