By Kara Kerwin
In a state where just 28 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math and 30 percent are proficient in reading according to national assessments, education is deserving of more attention in 2014 elections. Across the country, more parents are making informed decisions about their child’s education, but for Silver State parents without means, choices can be difficult to come by in a system where a child’s education is largely determined by zip code. As Nevadans head to the polls, it’s important they seek out candidates that share their views in putting student results first, regardless of party or politics.
Governor Brian Sandoval, who is running for reelection this year, used nothing less than his State of the State address to label himself as a reform champion: “I will continue to fight for more school choice,” and went on to introduce a bill to establish a tax credit-funded school choice scholarship program. This innovative school choice avenue serves 190,000 students nationwide, allowing kids to receive scholarships through tax credit-eligible contributions from individuals and businesses.
A strong supporter of charter schools, Sandoval established a revolving loan fund for start-up schools, and allowed access to state bonds for these alternative public schools needing to build adequate facilities. Additionally, a strong new teacher evaluation system was adopted in 2011 that would, in the Governor’s words, “end tenure as we know it,” but has yet to be implemented three years later.
Challenger Bob Goodman – who lost the primary to Nevada’s non-binding “none of the above” choice – says that his experience as the state’s director of economic development in the 1970s (and as Wyoming’s after that), and his role as founder of the Sino-American Trade Development Association, qualify him to be the next governor.
Maybe that’s why his entire platform for governor is based on “getting results for Nevada’s business and tourist industries,” and “implementing new initiatives to expand our global trade, especially with Asia.” There is not a single word about education reform. Not one.
While educators and parents are doing inspiring things everyday at the classroom and community level to further student outcomes, reform and innovation in schools go only so far as the laws that govern them. The key to solving the nation’s education crisis is electing governors who understand that they have the power to change a system, and holding them accountable to do so. With 36 gubernatorial elections underway in 2014, we should all resolve to make education our top priority when we take to the polls in November.
It’s up to Nevada voters to spot the candidate who has a chance of enacting the types of state-level reforms that yet to gain traction in Carson City, but have proven successful elsewhere across the nation. As families increasingly demand positive change at rallies and in their communities, now is the time to demand it at the ballot box.
Kara Kerwin is president of The Center for Education Reform.