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Guthrie Named New Nevada Superintendent

by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), using new authority granted to him by the legislature in 2011, has appointed James W. Guthrie, a long-time education finance and policy scholar, as new state superintendent of public instruction.

Guthrie, who takes over April 2 from schools chief Keith Rheault, is now serving as a senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute, a Dallas think tank that advocates for free market solutions to societal problems. He was appointed to that position in January 2010.

Guthrie, currently professor of public policy and education at Southern Methodist University, has also has worked in the education schools of the University of California, Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University. (And he was a technical adviser on Quality Counts 2011, published by Education Week.)

Guthrie has called concerns about the levels of education spending in the U.S. a "phony funding crisis." In a 2010 article for Education Next magazine, co-written with Arthur Peng, Guthrie wrote that education advocates drastically inflated fears of school cuts and layoffs even as school spending increased dramatically over time.

"The ever-increasing cost of public education would engender less controversy if the product had improved apace," Guthrie and Peng wrote, adding that students' performance based on longitudinal data had not kept up with spending.

In an article posted on the George W. Bush Institute's website on Dec. 23, 2010, Guthrie responded to the argument that teachers historically have been underpaid and still are (which Guthrie labeled a "myth"). He stated, in part, "Today we know that the link between student achievement and their teachers' seniority and graduate-course-count is weak—if it exists at all. Tying compensation to effectiveness and eliminating raises for master's degrees outside a teacher's field will improve student outcomes and yield savings."

In a statement on his website released March 12 announcing Guthrie's hiring, Sandoval said, "After the passage of education reform in the last legislative session, for Nevada to have access to a figure with a national reputation is the perfect next step."

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