The governor's budget proposal will force local school districts to cut more programs and increase class sizes. The working budget proposal Gov. Kenny Guinn shared with legislators did not reflect an increase in teacher pay.
While almost every politician running for office, including the governor, has touted education as a top priority, priorities can clearly be identified by what's funded. With no increase in teacher pay, the question that should be addressed is who's kidding who?
The budget crisis during the last legislative session resulted in program cuts and increases in class sizes. Additionally, Clark County could not attract enough qualified math teachers because of non-competitive salaries that resulted in approximately 3,000 kids being taught by substitutes.
A governor's aide suggested the reason a salary increase was not in the proposal was because teachers can negotiate with the local school districts for raises. After listening to that, my suggestion to teachers is to invest in fertilizer. With it being spread so thick, there's bound to be a shortage; stock prices are sure to go up.
The fact is that while teachers do negotiate with school districts, the amount of the settlement is very closely tied to the amount proposed in the governor's budget for teacher raises.
There's a nationwide shortage of teachers. Many states are offering incentives which include signing bonuses, paying moving costs, paying for master's degrees, putting down payments on houses, paying off college loans and offering tax credits. What is Nevada doing to attract and retain teachers? Nothing, hence the shortage.
How does that affect you? With last year's shortage in Clark County, about 3,000 high school students went without a qualified math teacher. Yet these kids will be held accountable and must pass a proficiency exam in mathematics to graduate from high school.
This is more of the same old smoke and mirrors game. The local school districts have already made deep cuts in their respective budgets. The Governor and legislators are calling for higher educational standards and more accountability, but won't guarantee our children fully qualified teachers. Call it hypocritical.
Year after year, education is touted as a top priority up to November, then shoved to the back burner after the election. Because education needs have not been addressed, the state teachers' association and Sen. Joe Neal have been forced to sponsor initiative petitions to address educational needs.
While political leaders decry these petitions and try to characterize them as bad for Nevada, the fact is they would not have come about if these conditions were addressed in previous legislative sessions. And just what's wrong with letting the people speak when their elective representative won't act?
I have held off supporting these initiatives while waiting for the Governor to put his plan on the table as an alternative. His current working budget suggests his plan is just more talk.
If the state wants to hold students to higher academic standards, hold schools accountable, and increase student achievement, it appears that in the absence of leadership, the people will have to address this issue by way of an initiative to ensure their sons and daughters not only have qualified teachers, but the best qualified teachers by offering competitive salaries.
Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a former member of the Nevada Board of Education. His e-mail address is email@example.com.