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Friday, July 15, 2011

Democrats for Education Reform...in Nevada?

Last weekend I spoke with some people about setting up a chapter of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) in Nevada. I think this is an excellent idea as it is badly needed. To date, Nevada's Democrats talk a big game about reforming education, but often rubber stamp union written bills that do nothing to improve student achievement.


You see, Democrats for Education Reform are a group of Democrats that realized there can be no meaningful progress on education if the union dictates education policy. Yes, the Nevada State Education Association literally writes the education bills for the Nevada State Democrats. Not kidding. The union does SOME great things for teachers (SOME!!!). But that's it! The unions job is to protect teachers, not students. In fact, many policies the union supports actually harms students. This is why I repeatedly state that K-12 education is about funding jobs for adults, not educating students.

Several key members of Democrats for Education Reform support tearing down the "Pillars of Mediocrity" which includes tenure, lock-step pay, and seniority (they are also joined by Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress and dozens upon dozens of respected academics). These policies tend to discourage great teachers from staying in- or joining the profession, while also encouraging the worst teachers to stick around longer than anyone would like.

Just check out a few of the DFER policies:

  • We support policies which stimulate the creation of new, accountable public schools and which simultaneously close down failing schools

  • We support mechanisms that allow parents to select excellent schools for their children, and where education dollars follow each child to their school.

  • We support governance structures which hold leaders responsible, while giving them the tools to effectuate change. We believe in empowering mayors to lead urban school districts, so that they can be held accountable by the electorate.

  • We support policies that allow school principals and their school communities to select their teams of educators, holding them accountable for student performance but allowing them flexibility to exercise sound, professional judgment.

This sounds EXACTLY like my series on expanding the empowerment school program (I wrote a bill on this called SB 196 but unfortunately most of the above provisions were stripped out by Nevada Democrats in committee). 

Independent thinker wanted...preferably a registered Democrat

On a side note, someone expressed interest in having yours truly lead the Democrats for Education Reform Nevada chapter since I'm not a Republican and on board with much of the DFER platform (I'm a registered independent and have been so since turning 18. I, however, consider myself a classical liberal and little "l" libertarian). I turned down the offer on the grounds that working for NPRI "ruined my brand" as far as mainstream Democrats would be concerned. I suggested to these individuals we need to find real Democrats who understand the education reform research and are willing to question the union's motives.

These Democrats do exist....believe me. If you know one, let me know.

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