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School District awaits word on impact of final budget

Updated Friday, June 3, 2011 | 11:31 a.m.

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez

Clark County School District officials were waiting to hear Friday how much the district’s budget will be cut for the next two years after Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders reached agreement on a state budget.

Legislators could vote as early as Saturday on the final funding package, School District Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said.

Last month the School Board approved a budget that anticipated a $407.4 million deficit and included 1,834 layoffs. That was a worst-case scenario based on budget projections before the announcement of Wednesday’s deal. The actual cuts could be less and depend in part on a complex formula to distribute state dollars to school districts.

“We don’t think the worst-case scenario applies anymore, but we don’t know what the number is going to be,” Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Pedro Martinez said.

Meantime, district officials were attempting to grasp the significance of the budget agreement, which could lead to fewer layoffs and smaller-than-expected class sizes. Despite the potentially improved revenue picture Martinez was circumspect.

“Our schools, compared to other districts throughout the country, are in a very low-funded district,” he said. “There are districts in the East that get double what we get. Budget cutting always creates an additional challenge, but the superintendent and I feel we don’t want that to be an excuse.”

Under the budget deal, schoolteachers could see a reported 2.5 percent salary reduction and could be required to pay 5.3 percent of their salaries toward their retirement benefits.

Despite such uncertainty, Martinez and Superintendent Dwight Jones spoke this week of players at every level of the 37,000 employee School District taking greater personal and professional responsibility for student performance.

They stressed the shift in the approach of administrators, principals, teachers and students to boost sudden performance and graduation rates, a change that would essentially find them doing more with less. Both men think that enhanced results can occur through more efficient spending and better deployment of district personnel.

“Even with the cuts the question remains — how do we challenge the talent we have?” Martinez says. “We have some pockets of success around the district, the county. We don’t believe that the resources have been aligned as they should be.”

In the days leading to the budget agreement, School District officials spoke of ways to best use funding, with Martinez pointing to one relatively low-cost effort. It would create transition teams to monitor students as they move from elementary to middle to high schools to higher education.

Teams of teachers and administrators would discuss the challenges faced by academically challenged students. Little if any communication about individual student performance exists among schools as students graduate to the next level.

One result: UNLV President Neal Smatresk speaks of the high number of basic high school math and English courses needed for Clark County School District graduates at the university — as much as 40 percent of the district’s graduates need to retake basic English classes and 70 percent must redo math.

Meantime, Jones and Martinez have adopted a new formula to determine the district’s high school graduation rate that is expected to lower this past year’s figure from 68 percent to 51 percent, a number they say reflects reality. The goal is to establish true accountability for the failure of students, a troubling reality that finds just 1 in 10 ninth-graders eventually earning a bachelor’s degree, or about half the national average. The number is significantly lower for Hispanic and black students.

“When I look at those numbers and the demographic shift in our state,” Martinez says, “I tell our principals that if we don’t change these data points our children aren’t going to have the standard of living we want them to have.”

A recent Jones’ report said, “The costs of not educating all students well are significant. The economic costs are apparent in increased needs for unemployment and welfare, health and human services, and corrections. Less apparent are the costs of the growing distance between groups of individuals, between those who benefit more in our society and those who typically benefit less.”

Martinez said the district is building financial relationships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, the latter funded by home developer Eli Broad that funds a 10-month training academy for CEOs and senior executives seeking to become school superintendents. Martinez, a certified public accountant with a master’s in business administration, is a graduate of the academy who was hired by the Chicago public schools system.

The Gates Foundation gave $21 million to the Chicago school district in 2006 to establish more challenging high school curriculum, boost graduation rates and better prepare students for high school. At the time it was the foundation’s largest gift to a school district.

The Broad Foundation has given millions of dollars to the Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City public school districts, with the money targeting low-income students and public charter schools.

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  1. mred,

    You don't want to pay for education so why complain if the Gates Trust wants to help out?

    Have not seen you have a positive idea or comment in years.

    Buses leave on the hour every hour. ;-)

  2. How truly amazing it is, that zero responsibility for a child is placed onto that child's parent(s)!!!

    "Despite such uncertainty, Martinez and Superintendent Dwight Jones spoke this week of players at every level of the 37,000 employee School District taking greater personal and professional responsibility for student performance."

    The school district has a problem with drop-outs. This is addressed in research that is posted on Interact on Turnaround Schools. Within that 283 page document, it states several times that the problem is #1-the district's inability to accurately account for high school students who leave: move to another county, state, whatever; so they are listed as "drop-outs." #2-that the second language immigrant population of children who are not making efforts (reading, speaking, and writing in English) to support effectively their school-aged children Kindergarten through Grade 12. These points are REPEATED throughout the study! Are WE learning anything from this study?

    For change to happen, we need to identify what we have been doing. For decades, we have AVOIDED addressing the problem with immigrants EFFECTIVELY. And, accounting, that is an administrative issue, nothing to do with teachers.

    Let's stop the insanity of doing the same things over and over, wasting money. Someone and everyone needs to get their courage on and deal with the delicate issue of 2nd language students and immigration, illegal immigrants, and the LACK OF OPPORTUNITY FOR EQUAL EDUCATION (thanks to budget cuts, and not rightly placing responsibility for a child's education and support) now presented in our schools!

  3. "40 percent of the district's graduates need to retake basic English classes and 70 percent must redo math."

    These are the ones that make it to college. These are the ones with parents that care and want their kids to go to college. These are the motivated kids. These are the kids that graduated high school.

    To all the teachers that complain of funding and the parents how do you explain this?

  4. Pedro you've got more money to spend per pupil than schools in Korea, Germany and most every OECD nation so do your job and educate the students and stop complaining about money.

  5. Just call our generation, the "sound byte" or "attention deficient" generation! We have the attention span of a peanut. And care about as much, it seems.

    Parents should be having conversations with their children about their future and the coursework at school they are engaged in. But nowadays, it seems,both parties are busily attached to their cell phones texting and communicating other nonessential things, than to be talking with one another about an all important FUTURE.

    One shoe does not fit all. Nor does one path or style in education or career training. It is a profession dealing with professionals servicing individuals and individual needs. Career education is promoted as early as elementary school. The fact is that most parents do not concern themselves with their child's career interests until the later high school years, then it is too little, too late. Careers take detailed planning that is carefully followed over time.

    As both a parent and educator, I have witnessed massive dropping of the ball for our nation's youth when it comes to careers. Every single thing a child learns is somehow connected towards a career skill or tool. A child's school experiences and their education is vital towards their future success in work!

    The "machine is broken," as ImproveLV points out. We need to start there,line by line, fix what is hindering quality delivery of educational services. Number 1 Asset is human = your frontline teachers. It doesn't cost money to get the students who are major distractions and troublemakers out of the classroom. That requires teacher support. It doesn't cost money to provide remedial and transitional education for ELL/ESL students in a separate environment until they are prepared to read, write, and count at grade level in ENGLISH, so they don't hold up the rest of the students throughout a whole school. That requires another room and a willing teacher and support. Use what already exists on site.

    The school district has many state of the art programs, high quality internet education and support, and adequate infrastructure. What seems to be lacking is the courage to do something different to evoke changes. Fear about being "politically correct" is costly BILLIONS of DOLLARS YEARLY in our current educational system and is keeping us from meaningful changes!

    Students' parents need to be held accountable for their child's current and future success. They have until age 18 legally to do it. By middle school, parents should be regularly talking about careers, should have made an appointment with the school guidance counselor to map out a career path, and be actively enhancing home activities that support their child. Give youth opportunities to do chores that have job skills. Provide constructive feedback. Demonstrate how things are done correctly so they learn to do it. Be there.

    Let's start with fixing what is broken, even if it bothers 'some' people.

  6. Bob,
    Pedro failed in his last two positions, it is too bad CCSD didn't care about Pedro's past performance and hired him anyway.

    Chicago, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chic...

    Reno, http://myinclinevillage.com/2011/03/21/i...

    We in Reno are glad to get rid of him, it would have been better if he left NV.