INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A group of Northern Nevadans was invited to the lovely Crystal Bay home of Bruce and Nora James earlier this month to meet the new Nevada State Superintendent of Schools, James Guthrie. This giant of educational attainment received his undergraduate and graduate training at Stanford University, took post-doctoral training at Harvard and Oxford and was dean of the education department at the University of California, Berkeley. The event proved an exciting view into the future of education in Nevada.
First, a little background: Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval campaigned on a promise to fix education in the Silver State. Here is his education policy as posted on his website www.briansandoval.com/issues:
“I believe we must focus on accountability with consequences and expand opportunities for choice. We should no longer allow salary schedules based on tenure and seniority; instead, we should use pay-for-performance scales. I support school choice which would allow students to attend another public school or a private school. I support ending the social promotion of our children and (in) expanding empowerment, charter and career and technical schools. We must reform Nevada's teacher licensure laws to allow more professionals to enter the teaching field and expedite the process to allow educators from other states to become licensed here.”
During the 2011 legislative session Sandoval persuaded the legislature, controlled by Democrats, to change the law and allow the governor to appoint the superintendent of education. There followed a nationwide search for the most qualified person to fill that position and that’s how Jim Guthrie was asked to come to Nevada.
Bruce and Nora’s guest list read like a who’s who in the Nevada education reform movement. Among those present were Washoe County Superintendent of Schools, Pedro Martinez; Incline High School Principal Stacey Cooper, eLearning Cafe founder Kathryn Kelly; Sierra Nevada College President Lynn Gillette; J.J. Mueller; excellence in education activist John H.O. La Gatta and his aide Gail Krolick; as well as a host of other locals identified with support of educational excellence. It was La Gatta who actually persuaded Guthrie to come to Nevada.
Guthrie did not mince any words. His goals for Nevada by year 2020 are: (1) Nevada public school students will equal or exceed United States’ median performance rates in every nationally measured academic achievement level; (2) the achievement gap (difference between test scores of poverty/minority students and all other students) will be the same or smaller than in any other state in the nation; (3) parents and students will be able to choose from conventional schools, charter schools, and web based educational opportunities equal to or greater than those in any other state; (4) the deployment of taxpayer dollars will produce as good or better school operational productivity as any other state; and (5) Nevada schools will be highly regarded throughout the state and nation.
He told the group he believes that student performance should be based on attainment, not time spent and that state educational funds should follow the child. He is an advocate of hiring top quality teachers and paying them well for their ability and time. Since the Nevada K-12 education budget is constrained by other demands on taxpayer dollars he would rather see class size increased in order to free up existing funds to pay high-performing teachers what they are worth.
Guthrie said that to accomplish these goals he will need “political capital.” “Political capital” is nothing more than expressions of support from people like readers of the Bonanza. Take a look at the link: www.educationnext.org/author/guthrie and read some of these ideas in greater detail.
And then tell your legislator you want Nevada to be educationally competitive with Massachusetts and Utah and that Jim Guthrie knows how to lead us there.
— Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.