Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

Currently: 43° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Legislature:

Teacher tenure tug-of-war under way in Legislature

Assembly, governor examine ways to reform teacher contracts

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas

When the time comes to lay off teachers and administrators, the Clark County School District wants to be able to consider more than just seniority — including employees’ criminal records, something not allowed by state law.

The Senate Education Committee is holding hearings on two bills this week — Assembly Bill 225 and Assembly Bill 229 — that would change the employee system teachers and administrators function under, commonly called tenure.

Those bills, sponsored by Democratic leadership, are likely to get caught in the tug-of-war over the budget and efforts by Democrats to reduce through tax increases the cuts proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Even with tax increases, Democrats say there are going to be cuts in state services, such as K-12 and higher education. In preparation, the Clark County School District offered an amendment Monday to the education reform package that would allow districts to consider more than just seniority when determining who gets laid off. The districts would consider:

• An employee’s attendance;

• Performance evaluations;

• Disciplinary history;

• And whether they have a criminal record.

Those factors would be considered along with seniority, district lobbyist Joyce Haldeman said. State law allows teachers to be dismissed for “cardinal sins,” including felonies, but it can be difficult to get rid of those with lesser offenses.

Some senators were startled to learn that the district could not get rid of someone with a criminal record.

“We don’t hire people with criminal records,” Haldeman told the committee.

“But you don’t have the ability to dismiss them?” Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said. “Oh, my.”

The bills would upend a long-held system that critics say has made it difficult to get rid of poor teachers. Under the bills:

• Teachers and administrators would be evaluated on a four-point system of highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective. Currently, teachers are only evaluated as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

• Teachers and administrators would have three-year probationary periods when hired, during which it would be easier to dismiss them or not renew their contracts. Currently, most teachers get tenure after one year.

• Teachers and administrators with two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations would be placed back on probationary status.

The bills passed the Assembly, but with criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Some Democrats said they unfairly targeted teachers. Republicans said the changes don’t go far enough.

The bills, sponsored by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, represent Democratic leadership’s proposals to reform the state education system.

Such changes have become a bargaining point between Democrats and Republicans.

The law allows tenure, formally called “post-probationary status,” to be granted within two years, but the second year is frequently dismissed. A review of records by the Las Vegas Sun found that, over the past five years, 95 percent of new teachers in Clark County were granted tenure after their first year.

Sandoval has called for the elimination of tenure. Senior adviser Dale Erquiaga said the changes proposed by the bills represent “a good first step,” although the administration has additional amendments it would support, including:

• Elimination of a law allowing teachers and districts to ignore certain provisions of state law if they conflict with their collectively bargained contract.

• Requiring 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be determined by test scores.

Right now, Smith said Assembly Bill 222 would create a committee to develop a teacher evaluation process. “We do not have an epidemic of bad teachers. What we have is a system that needs to be reworked,” she said.

Assembly Bill 555, which contained the governor’s more sweeping education reforms, received one hearing but has not come up again.

Smith and Oceguera have been targeted by the Nevada State Education Association, which represents teachers and support staff, for their proposed reforms. On Monday, teachers union lobbyist Craig Stevens said the union opposed changes for new or probationary teachers because it would make them essentially “at-will employees.”

“You could have a bad day on Thursday and get fired on Friday,” he said.

During the boom, Smith said, Clark County hired 25,000 teachers, recruiting anyone willing to journey here from across the country and around the world. The slowdown in growth offers an opportunity for reform. Smith said she has worked on these reforms with administrators, teachers and business groups for more than a year. But she acknowledged that some Democrats want reforms tied to an increase in education funding.

“There will be people here who would have a hard time supporting major changes when others are not at the table,” she said. “We are at the table. We are serious about cutting budgets. We’re serious about reforms.”

So far, Republican lawmakers have been either unwilling to negotiate on taxes in exchange for reforms or have said that Democrats’ reforms of education, collective bargaining and employee benefits don’t go far enough.

The Senate Education Committee will consider the bills again today.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 20 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. 3 years is too short if you do tenure at all. The national average is 2-3 years and the experts think that is too little time. If you do tenure it should be 5 years and revocable if the teacher proves incompetent (you don't want a crutch that allows teachers to cruise to a nice retirement for 35 years).

    Think about it another way, in higher education tenure takes 5 years and even then only about a third of of all PhDs earn tenure. The fact that 95 percent of teachers in Nevada earn tenure in 1 year shows that the whole process is a joke.

    A terrible joke on students.

  2. and Democrats, don't pull the "its for the children" line when you pass irresponsible spending bills before you make the much needed changes to how our failing public education system operates. It makes you look callous.

  3. Having worked as a professional in the private sector and in public education without the protection of tenure or of a contract I have experienced the "have a bad day Thursday and get fired Friday routine". Working or teaching with that terrible sword hanging over your head does not promote loyalty, or produce the best of you, instead you spend all too much time considering CYA and looking over your shoulder as to how to maintain your professional integrity. Can you envision your dr. working under the same rules -- be careful not to harm your self -- then consider the patients needs?

  4. I gotta say...
    I REALLY wish The Sun would limit PROFESSIONAL PROPAGANDISTS like Patrick R. Gibbons from USING THIS FORUM to DRUM UP SUPPORT for their positions, which in turn DRUMS UP SUPPORT for their BUSINESS INTERESTS.

    It DIRECTS THE DISCUSSION over to HIS TALKING POINTS, which have, in large measure, been DEBUNKED over and over and OVER... though he is loathe to admit that any of his little links to HIS FAVORITE PROPAGANDA are anything but ETCHED IN STONE Educational Commandments given to MOSES along with the Ten Commandments.

    PAID PROPAGANDISTS that are ANTI-EDUCATION SHILLS should stay away from the comment section of The Sun, where some of our finest Teaching PROFESSIONALS are posting information that is valuable to our community, and where others interested in the FUTURE OF OUR KIDS like to add their 2 cents, without PAT tearing them down.

  5. The teachers union IS the problem and everybody knows it.

    It's ironic that J. Patrick Coolican says in his article in today's Las Vegas Sun, "Don't blame the unions".

  6. Tenure should be increased in the CCSD to 3 years, in an effort to allow a better gauge as to which teachers are a good fit here and which ones are not.
    Believe me though, it won't make a HUGE DIFFERENCE.
    Bad teachers CAN AND ARE let go, regardless of the Tenure issue. It's another RED HERRING here in Nevader that's being used as a TOOL by the RIGHT to DEFLATE TEACHER SALARIES and slough off the myriad problems inherent in educating our local Young'ns on the TEACHERS, when the FACTS POINT TO OTHER ISSUES; ie; LACK OF FUNDING, Parent participation, language barriers, transient student populations, class size, lack of community involvement, etc. etc. etc...
    MONEY MATTERS.
    If you, like PAT, disagree, you are KIDDING YOURSELF.
    of COURSE money MATTERS. What kind of fool would think it wouldn't? There are LIMITS to that premise, OBVIOUSLY; but IN ALL THINGS, MONEY MATTERS.
    Lower the pay, lower the benefits, lower the TALENT POOL.
    Cut the per-pupil funding, CUT THE MONEY GOING TO EDUCATE THE KIDS, jeez, people...WHAT DO YOU THINK will happen?
    What does COMMON SENSE tell you? Less $$$ = less resources, less staff, LESS OF EVERYTHING!

    If, at the start, you are PROPERLY FUNDED, OR, compared to others, OVER THE TOP FUNDED, then SURE, you can have a discussion about "how much is enough"...
    But when you've NEVER ADEQUATELY FUNDED IN THE FIRST PLACE,
    cutting and chopping and slapping your Teachers around FLIES IN THE FACE OF COMMON SENSE.

  7. And, Thomas, there isn't a SHRED of documented or anecdotal evidence that UNIONS are the problem with Education...or anything else, for that matter. "Everyone knows"...that's rich.
    TeaBagger rhetoric is NOT HELPFUL.

  8. ...and, as a matter of FACT, there IS NO TEACHERS UNION in County of Clark, Nevada.

  9. "Teachers with criminal records"...

    ANOTHER RED HERRING, meant to STOKE THE FIRE!

  10. Teacher tenure is just another smokescreen to mask the real agenda of union busting in order to cut the pay of teachers. It is happening all over America and will continue as long as WE allow it. Stand up for your rights and fight this injustice.

  11. CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS...

    Are REQUIRED as part of the hiring process...
    is someone NOT DOING THEIR JOB?
    Are we talking Jaywalkers or Bank robbers here?

  12. Judith...
    You are a SMART GAL.

  13. Teachers, and other government employees, ought to have their Criminal backgrounds run routinely as a matter of course...

    But, of course, that would take MORE MONEY.

  14. If the unions are not the problem, then why can't the district keep the younger better teachers and lay off the older less enthusiastic teachers?

    Unions care only about themselves and not about the education of the kids. Over the last 30 years more money has been thrown at education....but the product (the uneducated kids) keeps getting worse. More money is not the solution, competition among schools is.

  15. "When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

    That notorious quote was from Albert Shanker, President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from 1964 to 1984 as well as President of the Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers) from 1974 to 1997.

  16. On Monday, teachers union lobbyist Craig Stevens said the union opposed changes for new or probationary teachers because it would make them essentially "at-will employees."

    "You could have a bad day on Thursday and get fired on Friday," he said.

    Uh yeah.....welcome to the real world. That would be a good start if bad or weak teachers could be fired like that.

  17. lets give them the same rights as most workers in nevada have THE RIGHT TO WORK.

  18. No index wrote: "...younger better teachers and lay off the older less enthusiastic teachers."

    Where is your proof that younger teachers are better and older teachers are less enthusiastic? Don't look now but your ageism is showing.

  19. Barbara, my wife was a bilingual T.A. at a few different elementary schools for several years before completing her degrees and going on to teach at the college level. She constantly spoke of the older burned out teachers (most but not all) who had no fear of being fired, and it was obvious to everyone that they had lost the enthusiasm they once had.

  20. The most important question, which no one is asking, is what exactly is Michelle Rhee expecting to get out of this. We already know Patrick_Gibbons, from now on to be known as Uncle Tom, is getting a nice size check cut to him for spewing garbage all over these boards, straight from Nathan Adelson (through NPRI of course), but what is Mrs. Rhee hoping to get from all this?

    Patrick, no fabricated charts today? All we get is innuendo from you?