Reform schools structure

At a meeting last year, a business consultant said, “There’s a belief there’s not a great education system” in Nevada.

Gov. Brian Sandoval bristled and responded, “I could point to anyone in the room, and they’d say that Nevada is not inferior to anywhere else.”

The fact that he was unwilling to listen to unpleasant information spoke volumes about this governor’s many failings.

His puny economic development program has Nevada falling further and further behind other small Western states. His failure to raise money for a damaged higher education system left Nevada unable to compete in economic development with those other states.

His lack of involvement in the legislative process meant that he, like his predecessor, relied on vetoes instead of working with legislators, and he caused an unnecessary special session of the Legislature.

His partisan veto of a legislative redistricting plan put an out-of-control judge in charge of the matter.

His lack of leadership on the patient-dumping scandal meant that when Nevadans looked to their governor, he was nowhere to be seen.

Now, having failed other portions of the Nevada community, he is screwing up primary and secondary education. Nevada does not have a great education system.

The governor has a weakness for empire building. Nevada had an economic development program that operated independently and reflected all viewpoints. Then Sandoval proposed, and the Legislature approved, a new system under the governor’s thumb. It serves the purpose of showcasing him for publicity purposes, but it did nothing to strengthen the state’s economic development efforts.

That same kind of empire building was reflected when Sandoval called on the Legislature to allow him to appoint the state superintendent of schools, previously appointed by the Nevada Board of Education. Then, for good measure, he also asked that he appoint the members of the Board of Education.

Given the power to appoint the superintendent, Sandoval chose James Guthrie, who spoke unpopular truths that the public and governor badly needed to hear—that the inadequate Clark County schools drag down the state performance average, for instance. But Sandoval is not the kind of executive who appoints his man and then stands behind him. When Guthrie resigned, the governor set out to get himself a hand puppet instead of a servant of the public.

The governor appointed an old crony and childhood friend who can be counted on to be Sandoval Jr. Dale Erquiaga is a former deputy secretary of state of Nevada and head of the state culture agency. He’s been a job jumper for years, seldom staying in one place for long, even as a staffer in Sandoval’s office. His experience in education is as meager as the governor’s commitment to it.

This is not the way education should be handled. Members of the Washoe County legislative delegation should begin preparing now to reverse the decision to make the superintendent and school board members political appointees. It has been a fiasco, like much of the Sandoval administration.

In fact, while they are at it, they should return Nevada not just to electing its school board but electing its superintendent, too, which it did for most of state history. Then the superintendent can speak candidly to the public without fear of being forced out. And if there is one thing residents are qualified to vote on, it is education.