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October 24, 2014

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Nevada 3.0 - The state of education:

Public schools need more

Nevada 3.0: Education

As the Legislature considers several proposals for education, the Sun asked for a variety of opinions on the state of education in Nevada. It's part of the Sun's Nevada 3.0 project, which is looking at issues confronting the state and ways to move forward. You’ll find:

• The Sun’s editorial, "Invest in schools"

• A conversation with Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction James Guthrie

• A conversation with Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones

State Sen. Scott Hammond, a public school teacher and charter school board member, writes about choices facing the state.

Dr. Sonya Douglass Horsford, the senior resident scholar on education at The Lincy Institute at UNLV, writes about a missed opportunity in Nevada.

Judi Steele, president of the Public Education Foundation, writes about improving school leadership.

Victor Wakefield, executive director of Teach For America in the Las Vegas Valley, writes about grassroots ways to improve schools.

Another view?

Have your own opinion? Write a letter to the editor.

On Monday, Nevada legislators will observe Education Awareness Day. Thousands of teachers will start their day with few resources and overcrowded classes and, in Clark County, they will teach 50,000 students who do not speak English as their primary language. They will end the day the same way they started. Tired and exhausted, but ready to start the next day to do the same thing — teach!

On Monday something will be different. Teachers will no be longer invisible. Instead, 9,000 teaching professionals in more than 300 Clark County schools will unite to make lawmakers aware of what is happening in their classrooms. They will show their support for creating stable and adequate funding for our schools by wearing a “More 4 Schools” button giving voice to the needs of our schools.

Before the Nevada legislative session started, Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed an increase of $137 million in the state’s education budget. Prior to that, state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, proposed $20 million in funding for Clark County’s English language learner (ELL) program. Last week Democrats introduced their five-point education platform and will soon spell out how to pay for it. And, our state affiliate, the Nevada State Education Association, qualified the Education Initiative, which will generate more than $800 million in additional revenue for public schools if adopted. Education funding isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. Everyone agrees that more funding for education is needed.

As educators, we have reached the point where less funding means less for our students and schools. We cannot continue on this path.

Every year, Nevada’s 28,000 teachers spend close to $28 million out of their own pockets to help pay for classroom supplies for which school districts have no money. On average, teachers spend nearly $1,000 for essential classroom supplies.

Over the past five years, school district budgets have been cut by more than $800 million. This has resulted in schools being stripped to the core — cuts or elimination of programs, overcrowded classrooms (especially in Clark County where more than 217 elementary schools are above capacity), and in the elimination of ELL resources and programs, to name a few of the resources our schools are forced to do without.

Our legislators are failing our students. Our communities must demand more.

In Clark County, where more than 309,000 students attend school, the needs are magnified by the lack of ELL resources. More than 50,000 students depend on those resources, yet find them unavailable because the state has failed to allocate funding. How can we help these students succeed when we don’t have the tools and resources? It is a system set up for failure.

Teachers and students live daily with the consequences of shrinking school budgets. The largely overcrowded classrooms make it challenging for teachers to provide students with needed one-on-one attention. Completing assignments is often difficult as classrooms have outdated textbooks that do not match the curriculum and teachers cannot copy the pages as copy paper is in short supply. Classroom resources are so limited that by the second or third month of school, teachers have already used the supplies provided.

We must change course if we want a better future for our children and our state.

Thousands of Clark County teachers are geared up to advocate for public education throughout the legislative session because they know, firsthand, the consequences of an ill-funded education system. On Monday our goal is to make legislators aware of the realities in our classrooms.

Working together, we will provide our students — our children — with the tools needed to succeed and thrive.

Ruben R. Murillo is president of the Clark County Education Association, representing more than 17,000 teachers in Clark County’s public schools.

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  1. Charter schools, home schooling and school vouchers. All three should be viable and potential options to parents/guardians for their children and students.

    CarmineD

  2. Data driven research has repeatedly proven that charter schools perform no better, and often perform worse, than equally funded public schools. Recent studies have also proven that the more charter schools are created the worse they do overall.

    Home schooling only works if a family is wealthy enough to be able to afford to have one, already well educated, parent stay home and teach. With many single parent families and multiple job families this just isn't an option. The extremely small number of parents that already do homeschooling is proof that homeschooling as a solution is little more than a fantasy.

    Vouchers sound good but in reality based implementation, where parents don't have the free time and resources needed to transport students across the valley every week day, they are used almost exclusively, 90% or more, on religious private schools. Therefore, they been found unconstitutional in most states. Paying for private religious schools with public funding is and should continue to be illegal.

    Ideology based solutions will NOT fix our funding problems, only complex solutions based on increased resources and data driven research will fix our education problems.

  3. In addition to what Sebring posted, CCSD already has online schools as a choice. CCSD already offers parent choice in the form of zone variances (and yes, the money follows the student). CCSD already has charter schools.

    Online schools are not widely utilized because the child stays at home during the day and it takes a parent to supervise a young child. Even online elementary charter schools are few because of this. My children actually attend both brick and mortar and online HS here in Clark County, and have for 4 years. Last year 4,000 semester credit hours were earned through Virtual HS.

    Online schools may be less expensive to run, however most states fund online schools at the same per student rate as brick and mortar schools- for a cost savings of zero. I couldn't find what the state funds our online schools, but in my finance research, I haven't found a different line item for per pupil expenditures for online, so my gut says we fund them equally.

    Zone variances aren't widely utilized because parents have to provide the transportation to the school of choice.

    Charter schools are utilized. However, last year in CCSD only 34% of charter schools made AYP. There are charter schools that are labeled "N10". They have failed for 10 years in a row, yet stay open because they are a charter. A general public school would have been taken over by the state, or made a turn around team around N5.

    Last year, the 10 largest charter school "companies" spent $94.4 Million in taxpayer money on advertising!! K12 alone spent $21.5 million in the first 8 months after opening!! And you complain about CCSD wasting money?? Imagine what 94.4 million dollars could have done for student learning.

    Stanford released a comprehensive study last year, the largest done on charter schools. They found about 1/5 (or 20%) fared better than the general public school. Almost half were equal to the general public school, and 37% were significantly worse.

    It's not that teachers don't like charter schools because they are competition... we don't like them because they don't work, and the research shows it. They have been hailed as the panacea for public education and it is taken without question. They are selling a false bill of goods, that only ends up hurting the children in the long run.

  4. To the above commenters: When the state of Nevada'a schools are consistently at the bottom of the heap, ALL OPTIONS, I repeat, ALL OPTIONS MUST be on the table for consideration. Just because other locales failed with one or more of these options, doesn't mean Nevada will too. Facts and circumstances are not the same across the board for all these options. There are numerous districts throughout the country where one or more of these options are working successfully concurrently for the educations of our students. Give parents choices. Teachers and school administrators, who have failed miserably in Nevada, should not dictate their same vested interests and their own education agendas. Parents and local governing jurisdictions in concert should.

    CarmineD

  5. Melissa Smith has it right:
    In addition to what Sebring posted, CCSD already has online schools as a choice. CCSD already offers parent choice in the form of zone variances (and yes, the money follows the student). CCSD already has charter schools.
    Online schools are not widely utilized because the child stays at home during the day and it takes a parent to supervise a young child. Even online elementary charter schools are few because of this. My children actually attend both brick and mortar and online HS here in Clark County, and have for 4 years. Last year 4,000 semester credit hours were earned through Virtual HS.
    Online schools may be less expensive to run, however most states fund online schools at the same per student rate as brick and mortar schools- for a cost savings of zero. I couldn't find what the state funds our online schools, but in my finance research, I haven't found a different line item for per pupil expenditures for online, so my gut says we fund them equally.
    Zone variances aren't widely utilized because parents have to provide the transportation to the school of choice.
    Charter schools are utilized. However, last year in CCSD only 34% of charter schools made AYP. There are charter schools that are labeled "N10". They have failed for 10 years in a row, yet stay open because they are a charter. A general public school would have been taken over by the state, or made a turn around team around N5.
    Last year, the 10 largest charter school "companies" spent $94.4 Million in taxpayer money on advertising!! K12 alone spent $21.5 million in the first 8 months after opening!! And you complain about CCSD wasting money?? Imagine what 94.4 million dollars could have done for student learning.
    Stanford released a comprehensive study last year, the largest done on charter schools. They found about 1/5 (or 20%) fared better than the general public school. Almost half were equal to the general public school, and 37% were significantly worse.
    It's not that teachers don't like charter schools because they are competition... we don't like them because they don't work, and the research shows it. They have been hailed as the panacea for public education and it is taken without question. They are selling a false bill of goods, that only ends up hurting the children in the long run.

  6. Carmine,
    Your failed "solutions" haven't been tried in just a couple of places and been found to fail. They have been tried in every single state and found to fail.
    You complain constantly on the LVSun pages about the state wasting money and then advocate for the state wasting more money on failed "school choice" solutions. It makes no sense.