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November 28, 2014

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Local Government:

Las Vegas council invests in education to tune of nearly $100,000

Las Vegas is partnering with two educational nonprofits at a cost of nearly $100,000 in an attempt to boost performance at struggling schools in the city’s urban core.

The issue: The City Council considered two separate agreements Wednesday — one with Teach for America and another with Communities in Schools.

The vote: Both approved unanimously

What it means: An additional 25 Teach for America teachers will be working in schools in the city’s urban core thanks to a two-year, $62,500 funding agreement approved by the council.

The funds will help cover a fraction of the costs Teach for America spends to train and develop its teachers, who are recent college graduates who agree to work in high-need, at-risk schools for a minimum of two years. The national nonprofit currently has 270 teachers working at 56 Clark County schools.

The teachers funded in part by the city will be placed in math, science and special education classrooms.

A separate one-year agreement with Communities in Schools will cost the city $35,000 to fund an education coordinator at Rex Bell Elementary School who will provide support and counseling services to students.

The two contracts are part of a broader effort by the city to improve education through its Downtown Achieves project.

“Downtown Achieves is our effort to align as many resources as possible to support the academic achievement of schools in Las Vegas,” said Brian Knudsen, a city administrative officer. “What’s interesting now is the School District and all the partners at the table are talking about what they can do to see improvement in Las Vegas schools.”

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who has an extensive background in education, including serving on the Clark County School Board, lauded both agreements, especially Communities in Schools, which she said fills in gaps in services not traditionally provided by the School District.

She said it’s important that both contracts are closely monitored by the city so their impact on students, and the city’s return on investment, can be measured.

“We must do a good job of developing an assessment model,” she said. "If we do not, then we will not have the facts we need to back up what we’re doing.”

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