Education plan is not a slam dunk
At his State of the State speech on Thursday, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval surprised many Nevadans with bold initiatives to improve education in the Silver State.
Perhaps jaw dropping describes the $4 billion proposal the governor wants the state to spend on education during the next two years.
To those residents in the 17 counties, mind boggling also describes a proposal to appoint school boards and restructure school districts.
First, from where is additional funding for education going to come? Taxes and plenty of them to the tune of $560 million? By making the temporary sunset taxes permanent to the amount of $650 million?
Yet, Nevada continues to give away money in tax abatements and incentives thus self-inflicting its own shortfalls across the state. During the past fiscal year, for example, Churchill County returned more than $130 million in tax abatements. Just think how much the returned tax abatements could have helped this county.
The governor proposes millions of dollars for a new medical school in southern Nevada — which we don’t need because of one in Reno — and $13 million for the Desert Research Institute. Lost during the tax talk was earmarking more money to the community colleges that will offer technical training to employees seeking to work in the alternative energy field and for Tesla, to name a few.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Nevada Association of Counties met in Fallon and strongly showed the correlation of community colleges to the businesses wanting to come to the state.
Evidently, that doesn’t appear to be that important on the state level if we are looking at this plan correctly.
Being a small school district, Churchill County has taken education seriously, and an exorbitant amount of school pride permeates throughout the valley. The governor suggests that members be appointed to each school board … but another idea focuses on a hybrid model where some members are appointed and the rest elected.
School boards are not perfect, just like governors aren’t perfect. When Nevadans reached their fill of Gov. Jim Gibbons, they voted him out. We didn’t hear howls from across the state to appoint future governors because of Gibbons’ record in office; likewise, if voters do not like what their trustees are doing, they vote out trustees as they did across the state in November.
If Republicans believe in the power of local government … much like they prefer with local control over curriculum (i.e. Common Core), then this proposal must be DOA. Anything else would be hypocritical if our state senator, James Settelmeyer, and Assemblywoman Robin Titus support the governor’s plan 100 percent.
The other proposal floated by the governor is to break up the larger school districts in the urban area of Clark and Washoe counties and consolidate smaller ones. In 1957, the legislature agreed to eliminate the smaller districts within the counties and incorporate them into 17 districts, one for each county.
The thought here centers on Clark County and the problem that district is encountering with low graduation rates, low test scores, etc. Several years ago when national research showed Nevada with a D- grade, we took the information Churchill County School District provided to the state and crunched the numbers by using the same formula. Without Reno and Las Vegas in the mix, Churchill County came out with a B- grade, just a few percentage points from a recording a solid B.
If Clark and Washoe counties are too huge to administer the education programs, divide them into smaller sectors … not separate districts … deal with the problems at hand.
Also missing from the governor’s proposal is parent accountability. Based on what we know from educators from around the state, one of the major problems in hampering education in Nevada are parents who enable their children to do the minimum to pass their courses. Here are two novel plans: Require students to maintain a C average to graduate, and for every failed course, their parents reimburse the school district. The threat of reimbursing school districts for failed courses may light the fire under Jack and Jill and their parents to take education more seriously.
While we think the spending plan is bold and expensive, fiscal conservative legislators who still propose to improve education must offer alternative plans during the legislative session. Empty talk carries less weight than having an alternative plan in place.
We know solutions to improve education exist, but our elected representatives must find a way to improve education in the state without breaking the bank and expanding the bureaucracy to disenfranchise the rural counties and their role in education.
Let the classroom games begin in 12 days.
LVN editorials appear on Wednesdays.