Letter to the editor:

Time for a lasting, true commitment to education

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto this past week of the Democratic education funding bill marks a disappointing and counterproductive move for a governor who claims — and I want to believe that he genuinely means this — a commitment to improve the quality of education for Nevada’s students.

The governor has proposed some thoughtful and worthwhile initiatives, most notably eliminating the “last in, first out” layoff policy in favor of one that allows principals to decide whom to lay off on the basis of teacher effectiveness. His proposals to reform the tenure system and the teacher evaluation system — so that teachers who improve student achievement are retained and rewarded — also merit support.

So, yes, eliminating the “last in, first out” layoff policy is both logical and useful. What would be more useful is mitigating layoffs altogether.

Any discussion of “reforming” the education system in Nevada must start with funding. Some Clark County teachers currently teach classes with 40 (forty!) or more students, and face two to four more students per class next year under the governor’s proposed budget.

The class sizes that have plagued Nevada’s school system — even in flush times, before the recession — directly, profoundly and negatively affect student achievement. To me, class size is the biggest barrier to a quality education system in this state — bigger than policies Sandoval is proposing connected to layoffs, teacher assessment and tenure (all of which also matter).

I suppose I admire our governor’s steadfastness in not raising taxes, however much I disagree with it. I wish he’d apply that same level of discipline and commitment to the task of actually putting students first — above politics — and restoring some funding to a historically underfinanced school system.

The writer is a former teacher in the New York City public school system.

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