By Seth Love
Last month, the the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a report indicating that Nevada received an ‘F’ for its inability to provide access and success for post-secondary higher education in both four year and two year colleges. With these low numbers of state educational accomplishment and seemingly a no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel outlook from citizens and officials alike, Nevadans presumably are hopeful as to what Mitt Romney might accomplish for our own state if he were elected. However, bear in mind that Massachusetts received only a ‘D’ from the same report.
Before we address that issue, we must attend to the more local subject; that is, back in May of this year, the school board held a meeting concerning the 2012-13 fiscal year and the budget of the Las Vegas educational system. In the end, the school board voted to embrace a $2 billion budget and keep raises for teacher salaries—with nearly $60 million in cuts and over 1000 school district layoffs as the cause from that vote (rather than freeze salary increase for a few years). At the meeting to discuss these choices, the board members were bombarded with anger and disdain from the Clark County Education Association, the teachers’ union and many other teachers—presumably fearing for their positions within the CCSD.
The meeting ended in cacophony.
It would seem the teachers union had not fully understood the implication of this choice, or at least that is how it was presented by Steve Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees. He said that his union agreed to the freeze payroll, so that we might keep the teachers and staff that we need—and so that class sizes would not increase needlessly.
To realize the full effect of this choice, we must look at the numbers: there is an expected $27 million dollar revenue decrease for the 2012-13 school year—for the third year in a row—so the district must take money out of its ‘savings’ to compensate for the near $20 million required for teacher raises. Meaning, at the basic level (and for the most part), the newest hires in CCSD will still be the first to be laid-off; seniority still matters more than the efficacy of teaching, or so it would seem.
How might this change if Romney were elected?
Not much, if you take into account his educational record relating to higher education in Massachusetts back in 2003. Mitt Romney established two achievements: the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Program, and, his bitter public feud with William Bulger, who was the president of the University of Massachusetts at the time. Thus, it would appear there is not much to say about what Romney achieved with education while he was governor when his initial goal was to decrease spending and make the Massachusetts’ higher education system more efficient.
And, as some analysts have said, it would seem that Romney forgot about his fight for education and was more concerned about the bureaucratic position of Bulger; moreover, eventually Bulger did resign because of the pressure from the media (as well as his brother’s ties with 19 murders and being on the FBI’s most wanted list). Thereby, at a simplistic level, Romney did remove a man with questionable ties, and perhaps too much of a salary, from a seat of power, thus providing more wiggle room for Massachusetts’ education. Yet he did not accomplish his goal (educational efficiency) or at least as can be seen now.
Furthermore, this is in the past. History does give us a lens into some sort of prediction for the future, but it cannot be the basis for all personal judgment. And with such statements from Romney as, “I believe that our best teachers are underpaid and should be rewarded for the extra effort they bring to the classroom and the results they deliver for our students[, and that] teachers should be compensated according to their ability to produce real results, not solely on the number of years they’ve been on the job. If we want to attract ambitious teachers, we need to treat teaching as a profession.” One can only hope that Romney’s past is not the best scope to view his future as a president.
Ironic, it seems, for hope is all we had for Obama nearly four years ago.