Educators urge Nevada lawmakers to raise taxes for schools
Reno high school students walked out of classes and Las Vegas mothers drove eight hours Monday to urge state lawmakers to raise taxes to pay for Nevada’s schools.
More than 200 teachers, students and school officials were met by Gov. Kenny Guinn and top lawmakers on the steps of the Legislature at an after-school rally where third-graders sported buttons reading “Invest in me” and others waved “Go School” signs.
“By golly, tax us because our kids deserve the best they can get!” shouted Carlos Garcia, superintendent of Clark County School District, the sixth-largest district in the nation.
Guinn said “now is the worst of the worst times” for the cash-strapped state but pledged to push for his two-year education spending plan.
His budget proposal allocates $1.72 billion, or about 36 percent of all state funds, to elementary and secondary schools. But it depends partly on a nearly $1 billion tax increase that has run into opposition from business groups and has been questioned by some lawmakers.
“They need to make a tough decision,” said Jon Pettengill, a Reno high school science teacher. “And I just want them to say to them, whatever it is you do, put education at the top.”
Pettengill, standing among shouting youngsters and young-looking teachers, said he was glad to see top lawmakers listening.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, and Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins all expressed support for tax increases to pay for spending on schools and social service programs.
“We need to look to big business to invest in our children so we can have a Nevada we can be proud of,” said Perkins, D-Henderson.
Megan Sherman joined 120 students in walking out of North Valley High School in Reno an hour early on Monday to call attention to what she sees as underfunding. The 14-year-old leaned over Carson City’s main street urging motorists to honk in support of schools and new taxes.
Sherman said there are 38 students in her beginning Spanish class, making it “too hard to learn.”
“It’s too big and our teacher can’t control all of us,” she said. “We need more money to reduce the class sizes and pay for more books.”
Crowded classes spurred Karalyn Vavra to drive eight hours from Las Vegas with her two children, 6-year-old Mitchell and 4-year-old Katryna.
Vavra said that when she first moved to southern Nevada two years ago from Mississippi, she was “shocked” to see her son put in a half-day kindergarten class with 35 other children and one brand-new teacher.
“I didn’t think that education was a question. It just shocked me. I mean, even in Mississippi we had full-day kindergarten.”
Guinn has faced opposition from some key lawmakers on his $24 million effort to roll out an all-day kindergarten program over the next two years.