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Governor’s budget could add another pay cut for teachers

By ThisIsReno

By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: Teachers could forfeit portions of their salaries awarded for obtaining masters of doctorate degrees under a new proposal.

In what could amount to a pay cut, Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed eliminating that type of compensation in favor of $20 million in performance pay.

Sandoval called the current system “costly” in his State of the State address during January. During the speech, he cited Bill Gates, who last year argued that paying teachers for advanced degrees does not help students learn more.

But Sandoval’s proposal is not just a policy change.

According to several estimates, teachers in Nevada collectively earn more than $100 million for their advanced degrees.

“Twenty million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to what we pay for master’s degrees,” said Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District.

Sandoval’s $20 million proposal would mean teachers compete for a smaller pot of money.

“We must live with current realities,” Sandoval said during his State of the State address. “Pay-for-performance is still included in my budget, just on a different scale.”

Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, said last Thursday that the governor has included the removal of pay for advanced degrees in the dozens of budget bills Sandoval recently submitted.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the proposal could mean another cut for teachers just as teachers take a 5 percent pay cut and pay an increased amount of their salaries into retirement plans. She also said the change would derail what teachers had regarded as a reliable track toward higher pay in the future.

“You are dismantling a whole culture in the teacher pay system,” Smith said. “It is a big decision point.”

Haldeman said that she would support moving the school district from paying for educational attainment to paying for performance.

“Maybe it’s time to try something new,” she said. “I just want to make sure that the funding stays.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, is on the Assembly’s education committee. He said he would also support a policy change.

“I don’t care if you got a degree from Oxford; if you’re a lousy teacher, you’re a lousy teacher,” he said. “When you’re 50th in the nation and you’ve got no money, you’ve got to do something really innovative.”

Legislative legal staff are still working on drafting the bills, so the exact effects of the governor’s bills are unclear.

But Erquiaga said that the governor’s proposal would try to prohibit school districts from explicitly paying teachers for educational attainment.

This is the same way the governor plans to cut teacher pay by 5 percent.

Teachers and school districts bargain a contract separately from the state government. So they could still sign a contract that excludes a pay cut, but the state would have given school districts 5 percent less. The school districts would then not have the money to pay teachers even as they have a contractual obligation to do so.

The governor’s budget bills should be available to read soon.

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