There’s a reason tenure cannot be taken from a Nevada public school teacher, and it’s simple.

teacher tenure

There is nothing to take, Nevada public school teachers do not have tenure.  Nevada teachers have either probationary or post-probationary statusAB 378, which is purported to be a ‘reform’ bill is another of those ALEC/AFP dream lists inserted into the Legislative discussion.  Here’s the meaty part:

“Existing law provides for the evaluation, discipline and discharge of public school teachers and administrators. (NRS 391.311-391.3197) Generally, during a 3- year period, probationary teachers and administrators are subject to more intensive evaluation, have no right to continued employment after any school year, and have limited procedural rights if they are suspended or dismissed during a school year. (NRS 391.3125, 391.3127, 391.3128, 391.3197) The admonition, demotion, suspension, dismissal and nonreemployment provisions that apply to postprobationary teachers and administrators are generally inapplicable to probationary teachers and administrators. (NRS 391.3115) However, existing law provides that a collective bargaining agreement supersedes these statutory provisions if the agreement contains provisions relating to dismissal and nonreemployment. (NRS 391.3116) Section 10 of this bill generally eliminates the existing distinctions between probationary and postprobationary employees, except for the purposes of the evaluation requirements applicable to them. Notwithstanding the provisions of any collective bargaining agreement or contract of employment to the contrary, section 10 provides that a postprobationary employee has no status or rights of employment different from those of a probationary employee and may be denied reemployment after any school year.”

Got this? Because it really isn’t very difficult.  There are no “tenured teachers” in Nevada – there are only those with “postprobationary status” who have a less stringent evaluation procedure, and have DUE PROCESS rights if they are to be dismissed, demoted, or refused a contract for the next school year.  That’s all, simply DUE PROCESS rights to answer the allegations of mismanagement or incompetence if they are not offered another one year contract; and – every teacher in Nevada signs ONE year contracts with the local district.  Therefore, what AB 378 does is NOT to eliminate tenure (which doesn’t exist) but to eliminate DUE PROCESS, which does.

Now class, hands up, all in favor of removing  DUE PROCESS for teachers who are challenged by the school administration for mismanagement, incompetence, or generally not being popular with the administration?

This is a piece of legislation entangled with all manner of potential unintended consequences. A few examples:

Which evaluation regime is to be adopted for all teachers in the district if the distinction between probationary and post probationary teachers is eliminated?  It sounds like the probationary model might be the one most aligned with the intent of the legislation, but have the authors of the measure calculated the amount of time a school administrator would have to add to an already busy schedule to implement the enhanced processes in place for probationary teachers to everyone in the building?  Do the bill’s authors intend to fund additional administrators for school districts to fulfill all the evaluation tasks assigned?

If there is no advantage in staying with a school district for any length of time because there is no distinction between probationary and postprobationary teachers, then why should a “highly effective,” or “effective” teacher bother to stay longer than three years in a district if some other district or school offers higher pay or better incentives? 

Frankly, if I were in charge of an affluent school or district I’d be delighted with the prospect of “picking off” the best and brightest in the not-s0-affluent areas, by hinting to the best and brightest that since there was no advantage for them to stay longer in the Not So Affluent district or school,  I could offer, say, smaller class sizes, a lighter schedule, and more input into curriculum design and implementation?  This often happens anyway, but why encourage it?

If due process is denied to an individual who has received “highly effective” or even “effective,” ratings for three years running does the prospect of demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment invite more litigation? The elimination of the hearing process means that the “administrative remedies” are exhausted as soon as the announcement is made to the teacher in question.  So, if there aren’t any “administrative remedies” available, then the next step is into the courtroom.  Expensive? Probably.  This situation leads to the next question.

Does eliminating the due process and related contractual provisions place more school administrators in jeopardy?  Possibly yes.  If administrative remedies are eliminated and any questions remain about the intent or source of the decision to demote, dismiss, or refuse to re-employ, then the administrator or district must demonstrate (as a potential defendant) that the decision made was not arbitrary, capricious, or vindictive.   If there’s  system in place governing the demotion, dismissal, or employment refusal decision making process then the administration has a documented ‘trail’ and it is much more difficult to substantiate allegations that the decision was made arbitrarily, capriciously, or even vindictively.

Other than completely eliminating the due process protections for both teachers and administrators, there’s another element in the bill that should make a person’s skin crawl.

“Existing law requires the State Board of Education to establish by regulation the maximum pupil-teacher ratio in each grade and for each subject matter each school district in this State. (NRS 387.123) Generally, the ratio of pupils teachers in kindergarten and grades 1, 2 and 3 must not exceed a specified and each school district must develop a plan to reduce the ratio within the limits available financial support. (NRS 388.700-388.725) Sections 3-5, 12, 13 and this bill repeal those provisions and eliminate existing references to them.”

It’s difficult enough to be “effective” or “highly effective” as a teacher or administrator in a school anyway… but in which situation are they more likely to be successful:  School A with 40 students in primary grade classrooms; or, School B with no more than 20 students in primary grade classrooms?  Or, put less stridently, in which classroom is a youngster more likely to receive attention to his or her questions?

Assemblywomen Victoria Dooling (R-NV41 and Freedom Works) and Shelly Shelton (R-NV10), the sponsors of this bill, should have paid a bit more attention to the details in NRS 391 before putting this bill forward.  Additionally, they should have noticed that when the subject of employment and due process arise the potential for mischief (and protracted litigation) increases.  Sometimes things aren’t as simple as anti-government activists like Matt Kibbe says. 

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