Council member has expensive slapstick routine

It appears that the Council to Establish Academic Standards would like to add a little salt to the wound of classroom teachers.

I'm not sure it's the whole council, but Scott Craigie has called for the personnel at the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Basic Education to receive pay raises up to 10 percent. His request is being made at a time when there is supposedly no money for teacher pay raises.

And this percentage increase for CBE personnel is on top of the back billing the company is already trying to charge the state. CBE wants to charge the state an additional $100,000 for work in which they had no contract. After personnel from the Nevada Department of Education reviewed this bill, it found that CBE was double billing the state to the tune of $10,000, so now they want the board of examiners to approve $90,000 in additional costs. Where are Moe, Larry and Curley when you need them?

CBE's contract started out as $70,000. They have been paid $325,000 to date while back billing the state for an additional $90,000 and want a contract for this coming year in the neighborhood of $100,000. Those numbers do not reflect costs to local districts for substitutes. We are well over one-half million dollars in costs for these standards. And Craigie wants to give them a 10 percent raise.

Craigie loves to be the lead man; unfortunately, it appears to be slapstick. Interestingly, while Craigie was serving on this council, he also represented Harcourt Brace, a book publisher and test maker. That's interesting because the council is supposed to recommend a test to the state board of education.

When this conflict was brought to his attention, he pointed out that he received the Common Cause award. A follow-up story indicated he was going to seek either a legal or ethical opinion on his status, a third story ran indicating he was no longer going to represent the company.

Craigie now claims to be concerned with the denseness of the new academic standards being developed. However, that fell on deaf ears a year ago when I complained that the new math standards were not reasonably attainable - nor appropriate for all students. In fact, Craigie's claim at that time to the rest of the council that when he was in school, all kids had to learn how to factor polynomials and solve quadratic equations was enough to convince the council to include those standards for all students. A quick call to Craigie's home state proved him wrong. Only college bound students were taking classes that required those skills.

To make matters worse, Craigie even testified before the Legislative Committee on Education and tried to sway those legislators to implement the new state tests the same year the standards were being introduced into the schools. While it appeared he was speaking for the Council to Establish Academic Standards, he was not. But I only knew that because I was attending those meetings.

While testifying, he took a couple of swipes at the department for wanting to set the test dates more appropriately. His council ended up supporting the state board's and department's original recommendation. More slapstick?

He took yet another swipe at department personnel a couple of weeks ago. This time he was complaining about the health-PE standards. After all was said and done, egg could be found on Craigie's face again because his favorite Washington, D.C.- based company had already reviewed the standard he was maligning. It seems Craigie's complaint was without CBE's help the state could not write good standards.

Craigie has given bad information to his own council regarding the math standards. He testified before the Legislative Committee on Education wanting to implement the new state test this year, leading legislators to believe he was testifying for the council. Being the big businessman, he did not reveal his conflict with a testing company until pressed by the media.

He, with other members of the council, had CBE do work without a contract and did not question the overbilling of approximately $10,000 and is now seeking a raise for this company's employees to the tune of 10 percent when there is supposedly no money available for teachers.

And all the while the state Legislature, concerned with the appropriateness of the newly adopted state standards, passed SB 466 which requires this council to revisit, revise and prioritize those standards. A lot more money is going to be spent on these standards to make them reasonably attainable and appropriate for all students.

Hopefully, council members will read the TIMSS and McREL reports before they put the state in a bigger hole. Both these reports strongly suggest America's curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep, something the Council to Establish Academic Standards just made worse for Nevadans.

And maybe Craigie should listen and study with his mouth closed so he doesn't continue to add salt to wounds.

Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a member of the Nevada Board of Education. His views do not necessarily reflect those of other members. His e-mail address is


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