Our Opinion: Gibbons’ education plan: What’s wrong with this picture? | NevadaAppeal.com
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Our Opinion: Gibbons’ education plan: What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s the headline in the Nevada Appeal last week: “Gibbons’ plan slashes school spending,” atop an article detailing Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons’ so-called state education reform proposal that eliminates all-day kindergarten, all class-size reduction funding, the elected state Board of Education, and many special education initiatives. All of this – and more – supposedly to reduce the projection of a $72 million state general fund shortfall.

But here’s the reality:

• More than 20,700 students did not graduate from Nevada’s high schools in 2009; the lost lifetime earnings in Nevada for that class of dropouts alone total nearly $5.4 billion. Only 47 percent of Nevada’s high school students actually receive a diploma.

• Nevada would save more than $230.1 million in health care costs alone over the lifetimes of each class of dropouts had they earned their diplomas.

• If Nevada’s high schools graduated all of their students ready for college, the state would save almost $25.8 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings.

• Nevada’s economy would see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of about $78.4 million each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent.

• Nevada ranks 49th out of 50 states in the percentage of fourth-grade students actually reading at the Grade 4 level.

• Nevada ranks 45th out of 50 states in the percentage of fourth-grade students actually understanding math at the Grade 4 level.

• Nevada ranks 47th out of 50 states in the “Best Educated Index.”

• Nevada ranks 47th out of 50 states in the number of residents who have a college degree.

Ignoring the facts won’t help. We could go on and on. And we’re not making up these numbers: They come from the National Center for Educational Statistics and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Frankly, we’re embarrassed by these numbers, which spotlight our state’s casual attitude toward educating its residents. And we’re very concerned that the governor’s proposal will do nothing more than make things worse.

Plus, we’re perplexed by a couple of items in the governor’s eight-point plan that appear more political than actually designed to improve the state’s education level for its citizens or reducing a budget shortfall – such as the elimination of collective bargaining rights for school district employees, and creation of a statewide school voucher program to allow parents to use public (taxpayer) money to pay for tuition at private schools.

Exactly how does Nevada expect to improve the education level of its citizens by increasing the number of students in classes, reducing class time for pupils, and eliminating teaching positions?

We realize the state general fund shortfall should be addressed, but must Nevada balance its budget on the backs of our schoolchildren?