After four contentious public hearings on revising the Nevada Administrative Code, on Jan. 29, the day before Super Bowl Sunday, the Nevada State Board of Education members won the gratitude and respect of students with special needs, their parents, teachers and speech/language pathologists.
For years, services for Nevada's young developmentally delayed, learning disabled and communication disordered students have been underserved, underfunded and the educators serving them overloaded and frustrated with high numbers, inadequate time and resources. However, that day the Nevada State Board of Education members made the brave, highly controversial decision to attempt to rectify this inadequacy by modestly reducing class sizes in special education programs (from 24 to 22) and reducing caseloads for speech/language pathologists (from 60 to 50) beginning July 2000.
To the great disappointment of advocates for disabled students, parents of disabled students and the teachers of disabled students - the administrators of all our school districts in Nevada testified in opposition to this proposal to improve services for children. Why? Because of money.
It is not news in Nevada that our schools are inadequately funded. Nevada has one of the lowest per capita student expenses in the country, ranks low in teacher salary schedules among the 50 states and simply does not invest in the education of its children - only testing them.
Nevada spends millions of dollars purchasing commercial testing services and developing tests - but fails to expend adequate money to educate all of our children.
The Nevada State Board of Education did the right thing today. They established an educationally sound policy that was responsible, reasonable, important and supported by parent groups, teacher organizations and professional associations. Now it is up to the Nevada Legislature to help the districts to fund this policy.
I challenge the Nevada School District Administrators to get out in force (like you did in opposing this regulation change) and fight for the money needed to provide appropriate services for our children and manageable working conditions for your staff members.
That Sunday, Nevada's children and teachers were awarded a Super Bowl victory by the State Board of Education. The board listened and responded to a crisis in education and took a step to alleviate it. They took a stand against the powerful school superintendents in this state and in a sense challenged the Legislature (which would like to eliminate this body elected by us to represent our educational concerns) to adequately fund Nevada's schools. The board's decision made me proud to be an educator in Nevada. I salute the board for making a difficult decision and I want my colleagues and the families of my students to know that they voted for the right people to serve on the board - intelligent, responsive to their constituents and dedicated to improving the quality of education for Nevada's children and teachers, as well as compassionate, principled individuals.
VALERIE J. McNAY