Legislature’s grades aren’t so good either | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislature’s grades aren’t so good either

Bill Hanlon

Another school report card came out last week. This time the poor grades can be attributed to our state legislators. A number of the state’s key legislators have used these national report cards to beat up on public education in the past.

It now appears much of the criticism is being pointed in their direction.

In the Quality Counts Report published by Education Week, Nevada received a grade of A in Standards and Accountability, C- in Improving Teacher Quality, F in School Climate, C- in Resource Adequacy, D in Resource Allocation and a C in Resource Equity.

My guess is that those legislators critical of public schools will have a hard time using this report to better public schools because the report suggests the state is not funding public education adequately.

In the Education Week’s report, they had Nevada listed ninth from the bottom. Last time I checked, Nevada’s per pupil expenditure was $3.23 below the national average per day. So while the state put some money in the education till last session, the question should be asked: Was it anywhere near enough?

A little math might give you some insight on just how much $3.23 per student per day really is. Clark County has approximately 220,000 students. If Clark received the $3.23 per student per day, that would result in Clark schools receiving an additional $127 million this year based on a 180-day school year. Washoe schools would receive an additional $23 million, Elko around $7 million and Carson schools would get an additional $4 million.

So it could be argued the state short-changed those districts, based on a national average, somewhere in the vicinity of $160 million. This national report card is bringing this educational funding issue home to roost.

Oh yes, the state did allocate some special funding; $7 million professional development, and another $3 million for remediation. But that $10 million falls way short of what other states are spending on public education.

Parents have consistently gone to the Nevada State Legislature and asked that public education be funded first, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. It now appears the legislature is at fault for some of the problems plaguing public schools for not allocating adequate funds to properly do the job.

Adding to that budget crunch forced on the local school districts, the federal government was supposed to pay for 40 percent of the special education programs mandated in that states. They came up with a lousy 6 percent. Local schools were forced to pick up the additional costs.

Nevada has a long way to go just to catch up with the national per pupil expenditure. That lack of funding has hit home in a number of local school districts. Nevada has not been able to offer a competitive salary package to teachers. That has resulted in a teacher shortage in math and science. How can we expect our students to keep performing above the national average when educational funding is so far below the national average?

Do state legislators believe that students will be able to pass high school proficiency exams or do well on college entrance examinations when the state cannot guarantee those students a qualified math or science teacher? I wonder how state legislators would feel if their sons or daughters were being taught math by a substitute teacher – without a background in math?

Test results in Nevada have increased steadily over the last few years and are above the national average, but as more states funnel money into education, Nevada will fall further and further behind.

Other states’ investment in education is paying off. Unless the state Legislature steps up to the plate, our students will not have qualified teachers, up-to-date books, supplies or materials, and the result will be falling grades.

Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a member of the Nevada Board of Education. His views do not necessarily reflect those of other members. His e-mail address is bhanlon@accessnv.com.