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January 27, 2015

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Dark times for schools, future of our community

The state of emergency that exists in classroom is real, and budget woes are aggravating it

Students Rally on the Strip

Jaynie Connor holds a sign in front of the Bellagio as Clark County high school students rally Friday, April 29, 2011, in protest of cuts to the education budget. Launch slideshow »

Student protest

KSNV coverage of protest by valley high school students over proposed education budget cuts, April 29, 2011.

There’s an intersection just west of Summerlin Hospital, where Hualapai Way crosses Crestdale Lane. On one corner sits a park where children play soccer and lacrosse. Several hundred yards away is Bonner Elementary School, one of the better performing elementary schools in the Las Vegas Valley. The crosswalk has stop signs, no traffic signals and young children warily attempt to cross five days a week on their way to and from Bonner. Drivers race through the intersection without stopping. You can spot the skittishness in the body language of many of the youngsters, but somehow drivers don’t see it or care to look. You can’t help but wonder, if we’re not willing to stop for 8- and 9-year-old children as they enter those crosswalks, why would we ever do enough to educate them?

Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and neighbors did just that for many of us, but those were generations raised during an era of hardship — the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II. They understood self-sacrifice, the need to forgo a meal and a cup of milk so their children or younger brothers and sisters could thrive, let alone survive. They were the beneficiaries of a multitude of New Deal-inspired programs and attitudes that provided a future. A large percentage were educated by a nationwide network of public schools, which linked students, parents, teachers, administrators and the broader community.

Those of us raised during and since the Reagan years were taught to believe that government is the problem, not the answer, and taxes are not the dues of an enlightened society but rather the wages of an insatiable behemoth. We find reasons to tear at the foundation of our public school system, which contributed to the economic boom of the 20th century. And now we look the other way. Stop for those kids in the intersection? They’ll be OK. We roll through and not look back.

It’s a commonly held belief: We have an education crisis in Southern Nevada. Our high school graduation rates are among the worst in the country, so too our standardized test scores. Per-pupil classroom spending is among the lowest levels in the nation and continues to fall amid state budget cutting. Too many of our children can’t read, write or synthesize concepts at acceptable levels. The lamentable refrain — we’re atop the worst rankings and buried at the bottom of the best — is heard throughout the community. Everyone seems to have an answer for what ails the Clark County School District: More money. Less money. Community control. Fewer administrators. Financial incentives for teachers. Tougher tenure requirements. More bilingual classes. What’s certain is this: Nothing is certain.

Nevada wasn’t built with an emphasis on education. Raw minerals, gambling, hotels, prostitution, transportation, agriculture, construction and the military have been and continue to be the foundations of our economy. Although some segments required highly educated workers, the success of the state was largely built with the skills of blue-collar workers who had traditional training in reading, writing and arithmetic and required little in the way of advanced education. But the world has changed. Workers are expected to synthesize multiple skills at a much higher level, and if they don’t there are fewer opportunities awaiting them and our state.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has spoken of the need to diversify the state’s economy, to lure new businesses that will carry the state through the coming decades, but proponents of the strategy argue that strong public schools, colleges and universities are needed to recruit and retain the businesses that would jump-start that diversification effort. For them, Sandoval’s no-new-taxes pledge is a shortsighted approach that will stunt the state’s development efforts.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk said of the governor’s proposed budget cuts: “It’s a very, very serious moment in Nevada history. It’s unimaginable. It’s unimaginable if you believe we’re important to Nevada.”

The worst-case results from Sandoval’s cutting could find 315 jobs and 33 degree programs lost at UNLV and 2,500 to 4,500 jobs in the Clark County School District.

Sandoval’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, the former No. 2 lobbyist in the Clark County School District, says the choice is clear: “We can’t extract more tax dollars from the economy without (causing) harm. From our perspective, you have to change the system. Simply adding money or taking money (from the state’s public schools) hasn’t worked at all. That’s our challenge.”

Sandoval seeks to end what’s informally known as teacher tenure and wants what Erquiaga says would be a more thorough performance evaluation process for teachers. The governor also wants to eliminate the standardized pay scale offered by Nevada public school districts, with educators receiving raises based upon seniority and the number of advanced degrees attained. He wants to make it easier to fire bad teachers while rewarding good teachers for student performance.

Critics of the Sandoval plan view it as the latest assault by a Republican governor on the collective bargaining rights of unionized teachers, a large percentage of whom feel whipsawed by the political, social and economic changes that have overtaken this country. Public school teachers speak of the metaphorical target that’s been placed on their backs. Rather than holding a respected place in our culture, many believe that parents, politicians and taxpayers view them as highly skilled babysitters rather than highly educated professionals.

To be certain, the talent pool has changed through the decades. Before women had the right to vote; before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate was not equal; before Jews were allowed to live in the same neighborhoods as Christians and work as doctors and lawyers, our public schools were filled with teachers who were unable to find opportunity outside the classroom. Many were brilliant mathematicians, historians, writers and thinkers whose only hope for fulfilling work that challenged their intellectual abilities was in a public or private schools.

Graduates from the post-World War II era recall having teachers who today might have been a CEO, CFO, doctor or lawyer, but America of the 1940s and ’50s wasn’t that open-minded. The classroom was one of the few settings where they were allowed to shine. Then came the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, affirmative action and many of our best and brightest who might have ended up teaching had gained the opportunity to shine elsewhere. That’s not to say there aren’t first-rate educators in today’s classrooms. The problem is that the talent pool is thinner.

Talk privately with top-notch teachers and first-rate school administrators, and they’ll speak of colleagues and employees who went into the profession for the vacations, the breaks throughout the school year, the health insurance and retirement benefits, the chance to work in a school that their kids attend, the 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. work schedule.

What they often fail to see before taking the job are the real demands, the late nights, early mornings and weekends spent grading papers, preparing classroom plans, communicating with parents, completing government-mandated paperwork; attending before- and after-school meetings with co-workers and school administrators. A significant percentage fail to realize that they’re about to become surrogate parents and grandparents to their students, de facto counselors to parents.

Teacher Walkout

Harney Middle School teachers stage a protest off school ground after walking out at 2:41 p.m., the end of their contractual workday Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Many don’t remember that their children sit in classrooms in a region that challenges the most mature adults. Nevada has some of the highest rates of adult suicide, depression, substance abuse and other addictions in the country. We live in a three-shift town where two parents often aren’t home at the same time if both are lucky enough to have jobs or if the family unit is intact. Many come from homes where English is not spoken.

Our region’s elevation to iconic pop culture status finds many of us placing a greater emphasis on the ephemeral, the sexual, the short-term rather than the ethereal, the intellectual, the long-term. To be certain, there are safety nets — churches, synagogues, mosques, community groups, neighborhood schools and extended families. Yet, the same challenges that tear at our sense of community, rip at our public schools.

Talk of economic diversification often begins with the plight of those schools. We hear stories of businesses that had considered moving here but didn’t because of the quality of our public schools and the graduates they produce. Few want to send their kids into those buildings.

The School District places the high school graduation rate at about 70 percent. Johns Hopkins University says it’s closer to 50 percent. The number you cite depends upon the assumptions you make about the students who disappear from the system. Did they drop out or simply move away? Are they done with high school or planning to return for their GEDs?

Southern Nevada businessman Steve Hill has struggled with the issue. Before the economic crash, Hill found it difficult to find young employees, particularly Clark County schools graduates, who were able to synthesize math concepts or read and think at higher levels, skills needed on many construction jobs.

Hill is a key player in a local concrete business and one of the state’s most active business voices for education reform. He has engrossed himself in the minutiae of classroom performance, teacher incentives, school district budgeting and their effects on the regional economy. He’s an outspoken champion of education reform through the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and in recent weeks has been in Carson City meeting with top figures in the Legislature and the governor’s office. They’re attempting to lay the foundation for economic development and diversification and are seeking a full inventory of the state’s employment base, one that analyzes the number and types of employers, the quantitative and qualitative makeup of our workforce and an analysis of what the nation’s job market will be in the future.

Click to enlarge photo

Students, parents and teachers rally at Glen Taylor Elementary School in Henderson last month to encourage the governor and Legislature to support education.

Hill’s convinced that a thoughtful, strategic approach could broaden the employment base for years to come. Ironically, he’s not worried about finding qualified workers in today’s job market. “There are so many smart, qualified people out there looking for work,” he says. “That wasn’t the case five years ago.”

He frets that it won’t be the case in a couple of years when the economy finally rebounds.

Parents may find it difficult to articulate, but they sense that something is different. They worry about their children’s futures, not in the way that parents of an earlier generation did. Something has changed. The dream has been globalized, and now our children are competing in a world we never imagined.

Education activist Maureen Peckman, executive director of the Council for a Better Nevada, publicly articulated a similar concern five years ago during the search for a new Clark County schools superintendent. Peckman’s group sought to hire Eric Nadelstern, a reformer from the New York City public school system, to replace Carlos Garcia, who left his job in December 2005 to work in the private sector. Nadelstern was viewed as “an agent of change,” someone who would push for greater accountability in pursuit of higher high school graduation rates and improved student test scores.

Despite the support of Peckman and a group of 25 high-profile business and community leaders, Nadelstern withdrew from the process, saying the Clark County School Board didn’t fully support his candidacy. He feared that if he took the job, a split board wouldn’t support the reforms that he and the Peckman group sought, among them a push for greater accountability and neighborhood control of schools.

Peckman says School Board members were “in cahoots” with district administrators at the time to prevent Nadelstern from transforming the district. She characterized that dynamic as “one of the most dysfunctional aspects of our society,” school board members who raise $10,000 apiece to be elected to one of seven seats that determine education policy. “We’re getting the school district we deserve.”

Longtime district administrator Walt Rulffes was the other finalist for the position, which he took in early 2006. The amiable educator was credited with introducing the Clark County School District’s Empowerment Program, which has given principals, teachers and parents greater control over budgeting and hiring decisions at 30 schools. Yet, Peckman laments that concerns remain from the Garcia era. “I think you just need to start being honest with people, even if the news isn’t good,” she says. “People can handle really bad news. What they can’t handle is hopelessness. That’s when people stop showing up. That’s when students stop trying, and that’s when teachers stop teaching.”

She’s not shy about leaning on School District administrators and acknowledges that they take her calls because anyone of her group’s members could hold a news conference on a moment’s notice. Peckman pushed for the hiring of new Clark County schools Superintendent Dwight Jones. She says his commitment to education reform is needed in Southern Nevada. “We haven’t paid attention, the school board, the federal government. It goes back to thinking these kids can’t learn,” she says. “We haven’t kept the contract. We let you drop out. We said, ‘Go get a GED.’ We don’t follow up. We’ve completely let down on that contract. It’s what George Bush called the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Education Rally at Glen Taylor

Andrew Piotrowski, 9, from left, Lincoln Aquino, 9, and Alexis Almeido, 11, all students at Glen Taylor Elementary School, rally to encourage the governor and Legislature to support education at Glen Taylor Elementary School in Henderson Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Peckman looks to Empowerment Schools as a model that works, one that hammers away at the power of the bureaucracy and provides control and oversight where it will be wielded the best. The Empowerment Program is headed by Jeremy Hauser, a 49-year-old former principal who has led three elementary schools in neighborhoods ranging from low income to upper middle class.

A soft-spoken native of Illinois, Hauser is the son of a Lutheran minister who would leave the Sunday dinner table to “minister to his flock.” He views his role as having a similar calling, one in which he meshes schools with neighborhoods. “You can’t allow yourself to believe anything other than we are the key,” he says. “On the other hand, we’re trying to define the most important unit, the neighborhood. Our goal is to bring people together.”

The Empowerment Program is designed to give parents, teachers and principals at the program’s 30 schools real decision-making authority to hire the mix of teachers needed in each building. Some may place a greater emphasis on math, others on reading, but Hauser warns that “you can never become more neighborhood-oriented than academically oriented.”

He notes that four of the 12 Clark County elementary, middle and high schools were identified as “high achieving” under federal No Child Left Behind testing are empowerment schools. He says the schools reduced the achievement gap for children who study English as a second language, and the three empowerment high schools — Moapa, Chaparral and Cheyenne — have increased graduation rates while decreasing dropout rates by single-digit amounts.

Yet, Chaparral was recently placed on a watch list for failing to meet its Annual Yearly Progress goals under No Child Left Behind. The school’s principal and about 80 percent of its staff are being replaced. Other empowerment schools struggle with students’ academic performance. Hauser says the failings often can be attributed to a failure to find “the right solutions” for a school’s community as well as having “the wrong personnel” in a building. When asked whether both reflect upon him, Hauser readily acknowledges that they do. “The results are what move it up to my level of responsibility,” he says.

The empowerment budget is expected to decrease to $100 million next school year from $115 million, with a decline in state and local support and the expiration of a three-year, $13.5 million grant from billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation. Per-pupil spending in middle and high schools hovers at $3,600. But Hauser says it’s not all about money. He says neighborhood control is the future of education, demanded by the people who matter most — students and their parents — and he’s convinced that the schools superintendent, Jones, is equally committed to the concept. The key is leadership — charismatic, dynamic principals. “I’d like to hire a few of those,” he says. “You can change the energy of a school building immediately. Trying to find a Superman, that’s probably the idea. Actually, we can use multiple Supermen.”

Click to enlarge photo

Luke Cobett, who goes to Vanderburg Elementary, takes part in the Taylor Elementary rally. The Clark County School District faces 2,500 to 4,500 job cuts under the governor's plan.

The new superintendent has been on the job for four full months. A former Colorado commissioner of education, he has taught and was a school administrator in Kansas and Baltimore. No one’s certain how long he’ll be here or where he might be headed, but he’s viewed by community business leaders as a potential savior for what ails the Clark County School District.

In his first months in office, Jones has met with business, political and community leaders. What often emerges from those conversations is that the 48-year-old Jones is a true reformer, someone who’s willing to experiment and try things that others in the district have been reluctant to embrace. Where longtime officials view the district’s 5-year-old Empowerment Program as something of an insurgent effort, Jones says he “might want to see” all 352 schools work on some form of the empowerment model. “I think this model has tremendous potential in the district.” Jones recognizes that as society is plagued by increasingly intense challenges — hunger, illness, gang violence, bullying, teen sex — more pressure is placed upon our public schools.

“I’m not an excuse maker,” he says several times, noting that he willingly took the district’s top job, and he’s not shying away from what needs to be done. But education, Jones says, is about the basics. “I still say the main thing is the main thing. We have to educate the populace. Reading, writing and math matter a lot, and then the other piece is that folks have to have a sense of what our society is about — free enterprise, the political process. Schools have to maintain this American way of life, and you have to be able to read.”

During a recent conversation, Jones was told of the frustrations that many in this community have with the methodology used to determine high school graduation numbers. For years we’ve heard from high-level district officials that we live in a transient community, a place where families routinely move from neighborhood to neighborhood and often move out of state. We’re told that thousands of high school students are lost that way, many drop out, many more to attend school elsewhere. They return to California or Mexico or points beyond. When asked about those numbers Jones doesn’t shy away. He says he told district officials he wants data transparency, particularly for the graduation rate. He wants to know whether it’s 70 percent, 50 percent or something else.

“I’ve been on the job three months, and I still don’t know the numbers around the graduation rate,” Jones says. “I think the community understands we have some significant challenges. They’ll embrace and work with us, but not until we’re honest — right now we have a trust problem with our community. Until you tell the truth, you can’t get the community to embrace it and fix it.”

The full version of this story first appeared in the April 25 issue of VEGAS INC, a sister publication of the Sun.

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  1. The argument from Cato, Charles Murray ("The Bell Curve") and the Brand X Newspaper in town along with NPRI is that too many people have college degrees. They believe only a few rich sons and daughters should have educations. College makes people liberal and "progressive" for the teabags, the Kochs, the Coors, etc.

    Get real, they are anti-education.

  2. A superbly articulated examination of the CCSD's woes and few successes, well done!

  3. Helllloo!!! This state is all about gaming. There is no other industry. If you have children you should move out of Nevada to a state with family interests. tap tap tap. Helllloo!!! If you are a college student and picked a Nevada college. You made a mistake. Time to transfer! Hellloo! Can you hear meeee...

  4. Not quite, hookers and Miners are best off when they can't think about their line of work. Republicans are already brain dead, so they certainly don't need education. Their moto is "Don't know much about history, don't know much about math...."!

  5. I don't have a clear cut answer to the education problem in Nevada.

    But I would strongly encourage the first step is to get rid of the brain dead vampire Republican Party Governors people seem to always vote for here.

    It started with Gibbons gutting education.

    Now Sandoval has continued those same policies without any break in action.

    THAT would be a very good first step.

    Corporate America has WON THE WAR!!!
    You are now a citizen of the Corporate Entities of America!!!


    Most Informative:
    TANKER 1975. Thank you for taking the time, Tank!
    Unfortunately, it's longer than one line. That will kill any chance that those who NEED TO READ it WILL.

    Chuckles, you are a yuck a minute, man!
    You are as funny as a heart attack, dude!

  7. Take away more money from Nevada families and schools that would have been spent here. Take away sick leave and vacation days-which would not save any money in the budget. Yet, refuse to tax foreign mining corporations who write off their pittance 5% net profits tax and end up placing the bill for their costs on the same Nevada families whose pay is being cut to afford those tax breaks.

    See how this makes no sense? Foreign companies take our gold and silver for free, sell it overseas, and pay nothing for it because we are too busy beating our own people up.

    Until you Republicans stop attacking Nevada's working families and start fighting for our state, you will be Europe and Canada's best friends. Call 1-800-978-2878 and demand that the legislature dump the governor's budget and start over by taxing foreign mining corporations, brothels, and those who refuse to register their vehicles in Nevada. That solves a big part of our 2 billion deficit immediately.

  8. There is no shared sacrifice. There never has been and there never will be. Inequality is systemic. It has been and it always will be. Public policies are influenced by a powerful and rich few and crafted into laws by their minions. It's in our history books.

    It started in the ancient times when education (religion) consisted of pictures depicted in stained glass windows of churches built and financed by the rich and powerful. They used religion, persecuted the masses, and kept them ignorant so that "they won't know any better." They offered 'hope' that if they continued "believing" and tithing, they would be given heavenly rewards.

    The "kicker" was and still is, peasants are duped to believe this fallacy and the powerful and the rich are not even held responsible. They have scapegoats. The rich and the powerful don't even have to suffer the consequences of their actions; they have 'whipping boys.'

    Much has changed, but the ideology is the same. Stick your neck out and it gets cut off. History branded them as heretics, burned at stake; the modern day ones as heroes, imprisoned, or the modern day approach; assassinated.

    Is it going to change? I don't think so. We strive for what we can get for as much as they allow us. That's about it. Of course it's not fair.

    There is a saying that goes, "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em." That's how many succeed in life. There are heroes; there are saints; and then there are those who are wily. It's your choice.

    Oh, I forgot. There are the peasants who to this day continue to PARROT what the rich and the mighty make them believe. They live and survive, but not as humans do.

  9. Great article by Dave Berns! What struck a chord with me yesterday, while having lunch with a teacher from the Phillipines, who shared that the only way their education saw "reform" was when every man, woman, and child in that country went on strike and protested until their government listened. Virtually, the whole country was on strike until their needs and demands were addressed and met. In her kind opinion, that is much needed here. It is not likely to happen, in my opinion, due to the lack of understanding of many.

    On the same day, three children feared walking home from school due to awaiting bullies. Parents phone unavailable, parents not there to pick them up. No administrator present. Two of us teachers walked them home (half block) and made sure they were safe and will deal with this Monday with administrator and parties involved. Now, this is not contract hours, but we have a responsibility to our children, all of them, whether they are our natural children or those who are put into our care. Upon our return, there were two other teachers rebuking us for doing this. This makes for the picture of what is going on with the actual people working in education and their points of view on doing things. Just like YOU.

    Speaking from experience, having my own child go to middle school and high school in a small rural town (Lund) where children often times have 4-8 in a classroom, and they have a strong athletics program towards college scholarships, the individual attention, parental involvement, and community support with education in their schools, has produced a great number of high school graduates that continue on and graduate college, as my own son. It does make a difference. Coming to work here in Clark County while my son attended UNLV really was a shock in values. He graduated from the School of Engineering and has continously held a job since graduating, despite the terrible economy. He has a great appreciation for what I have to offer my students and knows where it leads. That is not always the case with whom I work around. Oh well.

  10. WHO should be involved in education? All of us. Why? We all are learners---lifelong learners at that. All generations, all governments, all businesses, and all families, benefit from educated members. It is a cotton-picking insurmountable task to get folks to agree on this and do something that works in a positive way towards education. WHERE do you start? Chicken or the egg: parents, students, government, schools, businesses, or teachers?

    "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him to drink," is so very true about the educational situation we have. Schools have teaching staff that are well trained and ready to serve. But how many children come to school wanting to learn or are supported or motivated at home to learn?

    No Child Left Behind and AYP needs to GO!
    It is dysfunctional, and leaves countless behind, besides having a built in self-destruct goal of 100% of the school's students being 100% proficient!!! Please contact your LAWMAKER regarding educational reform and this problem.

    Know that the majority of teachers CARE about education and your children deeply. It is a huge heartfelt desire that every child born on this planet has a chance, and has opportunity available in their lives, and enjoys/experiences happiness.

  11. "Star, you nailed this life-long learner thing. When we remain astute, we prosper. Fall into ruts, and we get run over."
    Right on.
    "Lifelong Learning"...
    could be a nifty new slogan for CCSD.
    Just so the kids understand, that isn't how long it should take to graduate.

  12. Sadly, common sense is very much lacking these days. There is NO good reason for that, as we all live in an "informational age." Folks have a right to exercise their choice to not participate or not think about it or anything; and their children tend to follow suite.

    Most everyone wants something for nothing. One way to get the parents/guardians to school meetings and events where I am, is to offer free food and/or items. They come, even bringing extended family and friends out of the woodwork. No food, no come. How do you/we/all of us work with such people when we are trying to solve these problems?

    To those of you who believe that all, "teachers care more about pensions, pay, and perks than they do about educating children," might I suggest you spend a day in a classroom with a teacher and see how consumed that individual is about such things.

    Teaching, by the way, is a shared responsibility. The parent(s) are that child's first teacher for many years, until being enrolled into a school, and continues actually, for life. When a child enters high school, their outlook changes drastically, often times affecting their graduating high school. It is unreasonable to hold teachers 100% responsible for that, when in fact, that individual and their parent(s) are key factors.

    Students get through high school by attending, active listening, participation, completing course requirements, and behaving appropriately. Many students who have not completed high school have: dropped out, need extensive tutoring, have not mastered the English language, have incomplete coursework, have medical or mental conditions that are hindering them, have behavioral issues, or lost faith in themselves and are in need of support.

    If we had civic minded people willing to VOLUNTEER time to assist these individuals, more would graduate, possibly all (I am an eternal optimist). But we don't, and so we rely on the good old GOVERNMENT to pick up the pieces and fix everything for everybody. Right?

    Teachers can not legally walk off the job. Think for a moment....even if they walked off for a week, it would matter little. People have to arrange their lives for summer vacation and Christmas break as it is now. BUT, close those schools for a year, and watch the wailing and gnashing of teeth, oh brother! Parents soon realize that the quality of education differs between them and professional teachers quite a bit (well, at least the ones that don't have a college education/degree). You can throw the kids in front of the tv to watch educational shows so much. There is much more to educating a child, and it takes a "village" to do so, as one person is not equipped to do it all.

  13. There is simply no easy answer to the problems facing education in Nevada or the country in general. But one factor that I think has been dismissed is the lack of competition among students to be the best in the class.

    Teachers used to encourage this.

    I recall as a child that there was a fierce competitive spirit among us to be number 1 on test scores, to be in the "A" group, etc. Nobody wanted to be in the bottom half of the class.

    Today, it seems fostering such a spirit in academics is wrong, that being better than someone else is forbidden. Well, some children *are* better than others and they should be identified early and encouraged by being placed in an environment with even stiffer competition.

    The idea that everyone is (or should be) equal has been taken in the wrong direction, in my opinion. Yes, we are are all human and should have the same rights, but we are by no means equal or interchangeable.

  14. Sandoval's kids will get a decent education - the rest of the people not so much - the poor not at all. Face it these are idealogs who care only about their ideas. They have no feel for the rest of the people. They are the American Sharia. I know they might not kill as many people who might perish under sharia but they will live imprisoned because of the ignorant choices forced upon them.

  15. How about some sacrafice from the teachers, administrators and unions. They keep saying "shared sacrafice". Well, start sharing. The rest of us pay a fortune for our health insurance (try Cobra after a layoff), Many of the taxpayers (like me) are barely hanging on to their house (if they haven't already lost it). I took a big pay cut to get a job after a layoff, sold my 2008 car and drive a 2004, lived without air cond. last summer, sold belongings, etc. in order to make ends meet. We have a very small house in an older neighborhood, nothing fancy. We have survived without demanding help or money from anyone, never took a dime of unemployment because there was always some work (not always enough) available. it's called survival (also known as living within your means) in a bad economy. It's hard to feel pity for a teacher living in a house twice as big as mine, driving a Lexus complaining about having to pay A PORTION of their health insurance or retirement (I pay for 100% of my health insurance). Times have changed. The rest of us are broke, I don't like it any more than you, but times have changed. Cuts HAVE to be made. Those of us working in the private sector have taken the big hit already. We're tapped out. When times get better, we will be better prepared than most to enjoy those good times, since we know what sacrafice is.
    By the way, here in California, Jerry Brown (A Democrat) is calling for similar cuts in education.

  16. Dear Bakersfield: sorry you've gone through such a hard time, very similar to my son-in-law (near Lancaster - not far from you): after 15 years working faithfully, his company folded. My daughter and her family survived 18 months until he found another, much lower-paying job; and, yes, collecting unemployment (and taking Dad's help). But one thing they held onto through all of this is the solid, quality education for their two daughters. Education is the key so that my granddaughters may not have to endure such hardship in their adult lives, and they know it. What a gift that public schools in California (at least in their district) are so much better than in Nevada: worlds apart, in terms of quality.

    One of the reasons California schools are better is the level of investment, and the higher teacher salaries. And teachers are not overpaid: average start nationwide is 39K; (in Nevada it's 33k); top off average 67k (less in Nevada, I believe about 59k after 20 years). Note: this is 30% less than average pay for professionals in the private sector with similar levels of education. Also: the pension and health benefits are not so great anymore, especially health care - much more pay-in, and there are cuts all the time. Hard to find a teacher in this town who doesn't work a second job or rely on combining with a spouse's salary to make ends meet. Is this right? Is this the best we can do for our kids? Is this good for our country?

    One question society needs to ask is: if we continue to cut salaries and benefits for teachers, who will become teachers in the future? Where will we find teachers enough to teach our grand-kids and great grand-children so that they might be competitive enough to earn their opportunities?

    We're the first generation in American history who now have children who are less educated, on average, than we are, and who face a lower standard of living. That's a crying shame. And we should all take a good long look in the mirror and ask ourselves: what have we done?

  17. P.S.: How about shifting that "shared sacrifice" to the rich for a change? Why should they enjoy the lowest taxes since 1931 when the rest of American socity is suffering?

  18. typo: "society"

  19. Take Action
    Write your legislators or do one better and write all of them at once!
    Nevada Student Coalition has a page where you can->

    If you're not sure what to say we have ideas listed that will get you started.

    Write your legislators TODAY

    and remember to tell your friends...

  20. There are classrooms and schools that have competitions, and the bright and/or hard working students are challenged, fight to win, acknowledged, and shine! Not sure where many of you have been. Schools hold competitions as: Spelling Bees, Science Bees, Geography Bees, and Math Bees. Are you really involved with schools and children in your neighborhood?

    Stop on by a school, I challenge you.

    Many teachers use "games" to challenge students and there is some mighty fierce competition and "playing" going on!

    Children have to learn that they "earn" grades and respect. How often do parents at home remind them, or practice with them? Believe it or not, there are parents who believe that the only time students do anything educational/school work, is only AT SCHOOL? Yes, they are out there! And teachers are expected to work miracles with such students.

    Until the taxpaying public requires the school administrators to require EFFECTIVE involvement by parent/guardian with their school aged children in public schools, ALL school monies are spent hap-hazardly as we are NOW seeing the outcomes. LAWMAKERS need to put enforcement teeth in the yearly signed,"Parent/Teacher/Student Involvement Contract." Millions of dollars are spent on it, and countless manpower hours, has it been truly effective?

    Please remember: the school site ADMINISTRATOR(and their bosses) has the final say on each student dollar spent at your school, not the teachers, not the union!

  21. Hypochondriacs, cutting education money isn't going to do any harm to those who really want to learn. The teachers are grossly overpaid for their duties, the books are skewed towards lies and the liberal agenda, the system is broken and we simply can't afford you anymore.

    Look at the college debts we're going to be forced into paying for; just about $1 trillion in loans and these don't look like they're going to be paid back. Look at the Obama economics, why work when liberals want to suck from us and give it to their mindless liberal trolls.

    The working class generation over the past 25 years hasn't produced much of anything except of bunch of freeloaders looking to suck off of others and not work to earn it. You idiots want us to spend more; you're the problem with America today, not the solution. We've tried it your way, it's doesn't work. Throwing more money down the toilet bowl isn't an option and won't occur.

  22. The "working class generation"? Teachers "grossly overpaid"? All "a bunch of freeloaders"?

    What a list of sad lies and accusations from this right-wing screed. No wonder: these right-wingers believe in a class-based society, an America of the rich, by the rich and for the rich, at the expense of everyone who isn't rich. They would see our country turned into a Dickensian nightmare of poverty and despair, all so they can get even richer from their unregulated Wall Street scams and phony real estate booms. What a shame!

    When did anyone in America come to such views? We are supposed to be a land of equal opportunity for all, and these vicious attacks against public education show the true colors of the right-wing as viciously un-American and morally corrupt.

    The truth: American workers are working more hours and earning less and less. Public education is the best way out of poverty for those who aren't born with money. Time to let the rage of the good working people in this country rise up and demand: tax the rich! Fund our schools! Seize the equal opportunity that is the promise of America!

  23. "When did anyone in America come to such views?"

    When Obama was voted into office and when the left winged nutcase liberals expect us to continue pay for their tokens a lifetime of freebies without having their followers accountable for their sick pathetic choices they make for their life. When liberals quit making excuses for their pathetic little tokens and hold them accountable for their choices, just maybe, we'll see it differently. Until this time occurs, I don't care.

  24. All I can figure out is, that "its2hot" is talking about his own family!

    And good Lord, "its2hot," throwing away people's lives is simply unacceptable, in our great country, the United States of America (soon to be owned and controlled by other powerful countries/people if we don't get united and together and work towards providing opportunities, let alone equal opportunities). No one wants to live in YOUR WORLD, pal. Your place is a scarry place!

    Again, teachers are workers trying to work and make a fair living. They hire UNION representatives as teachers are unable to keep abreast with currrent legal stuff for the country, state, and county where they serve regarding standards, salaries, and benefits. That, in itself, is a full-time job! Those representatives also are there for a teacher when there is a problem of perception, point of views, or discrimination as well.

    It is the ADMINISTRATION that determines all spending at the schools, examine them! Demand seeing the accounting books and where THEY are spending those dollars per pupil! Go for it!

    Teachers want to be of service, work, and make a difference in a life; they make poor politicians and are passionately consumed with what is going on in their classroom typically, not with what politicians are doing.

    Again, sorry to hear about the abundance of "freeloaders" that surround YOU, "its2hot."

  25. lol, no freeloaders in my life let alone around me. The unions, liberals, and the liberal society in general have succumbed to their liberal's sick choices. I personally could care a less what happens to any liberal or the life they choose. I am simply sick of my taxes being used enabling people whose only goal in life to vote liberal just so they can continue with their lazy self deserving pathetic choices they make.

    As far as teachers go, they're not teachers; they're robots to a liberal bias system that isn't teaching kids anything except how to blame and not for these kids not to be held accountable for their choices in life. Teachers can't teach, they're told who, what, when, where, and why by a system that is broken, remember, liberal system. Speak your teaching crock to somebody else; my three kids were removed from your system because your system is broken and what they taught sucked. Public education is a waste of money, yet, I'm still forced to pay for a broken system. Look at what has been produced by your system, what a waste of taxpayer funds. You simply can't spend our way of a flawed system, the system is broken and the last 20 years of proves just that, look at the lazy pathetic people today, If they're 43 and younger, most aren't too bright let alone productive members of society.

    A hint for you: look at the people who've lost their homes and can't afford to support their families or live the American dream. Stupidity is all say, it's a choice they made and we're paying for it.