School proposal makes splash

Former Nevada schools superintendent James Guthrie, who may have been forced out of his job by Gov. Brian Sandoval, is getting wide attention for his notion that some Nevada teachers get pay raises.

And as a result, the problems of Nevada education are also getting wide attention.

In an essay for the Nevada Research Policy Institute, Guthrie proposed that Nevada pay the top 10 percent of Nevada's teachers an annual salary of $200,000, thus attracting better candidates for teaching positions.

Guthrie described the idea as a quick fix for the state's schools problems: “A cadre of $200K classroom teachers would have an overall price tag for taxpayers far lower than the incremental school improvement ideas currently being contemplated, such as lowering class size or new add-on programs to ensure students can read by the third grade.”

The Nevada State Education Association responded, “There is no ‘silver bullet' that will fix Nevada's education system, as the report boasts. Of course we need a way to attract the best and brightest to our profession, but choosing a small percentage of teachers and lavishing them with high salaries would, as the report suggests, capture attention, but do little more.”

When Adam Taylor of Business Insider described Guthrie's proposals, he wrote, “Nevada education may well need rescuing. A 2013 report from Education Week found that the state's high school graduation rate was just 59.2 percent—the lowest in the country. When 24/7 Wall Street compiled the data … it ranked Nevada's public education system second ‘worst' in the country.”

Guthrie appears to be preparing for a Michelle Rhee-like role in his career. He is reportedly planning to release a national plan for education.

He was appointed school superintendent by Sandoval in 2011 after the Nevada Legislature switched the appointment power from the state school board to the governor. (Contrary to some published reports, he is not the state's first appointed school superintendent. That honor goes to John Bray in 1910.) The two men had public differences and Guthrie finally departed.