As someone who has been chronicling and documenting the GOP’s habit of never blowing an opportunity to blow an opportunity for more than 20 years , even I was stunned at how Assembly Republicans choked on a slam-dunk opportunity in the final week of the 2013 Nevada legislative session.
The concept of “parental triggers” — in which the worst “failure factory” government schools can be converted into a union-free charter school if a majority of parents vote to do so — is perhaps the hottest true education reform idea on the planet. So hot, in fact, that Hollywood actually made a movie about it last fall: “Won’t Back Down.”
Parental triggers are supported by just about every known conservative on Planet Earth and throughout the rest of the galaxy. I mean, this one is a bona fide no-brainer.
So the opportunity to pass a parental trigger bill (Senate Bill 311) in both Democrat-controlled houses of the Nevada Legislature, and have it signed by the governor, was probably the GOP’s only chance to do something really significant and conservative this session.
Surprisingly, the bill, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Ford, D -Las Vegas, passed unanimously in the Senate. It then moved over to the Assembly where it was summarily executed. By Republicans!
During debate, Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R- Reno, raised a silly technical point by objecting to the bill on the grounds that using public school buildings to start a charter schools is prohibited in other parts of Nevada Revised Statutes. He said this was a major problem.
No, it wasn’t.
Let’s face it, the Legislature has near-God-like powers. If it wants to make an exception to allow public school buildings to be converted into charters, it can. So let it be written; so let it be done.
Indeed, in no way, shape, form or fashion should Kirner’s objection have been used by any Republican to vote against this super important parental trigger bill. Nevertheless, when all was said and done only four Republicans — Michele Fiore, Melissa Woodbury, Pat Hickey and James Oscarson — voted with 13 Democrats in favor. As such, the bill was killed 24-17. Unbelievable!
This was absolutely a bill that every single Republican — conservative, moderate or liberal — should have voted for, just as Republicans in the Senate did. And had they, SB311 would have passed 28-13 and been on its way to the governor for his signature.
Instead, Kirner misled his colleagues — most of whom voted against the bill without reading or understanding it — thereby not only blowing the single-most important conservative opportunity of the 2013 legislative session, but sentencing thousands of Nevada children who are trapped in failure factory public schools to what amounts to life in education prison.
As blown opportunities go, this one really took the cake.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.