To many teachers at Cadwallader Middle School, the state's political leaders are like the students dozing through their classes who cannot be bothered to wake up from their slumber.
So teachers tried to raise attention for education by rallying on the sidewalk across the street from their school in northwestern Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon.
"Right now, there's no value in education when it comes to our legislators," said seventh-grade English teacher Jennifer Harris, who was among the 125 teachers and students chanting "Save our schools!" and holding up signs that did not flatter the state's leadership.
The rally off Elkhorn Road at North Buffalo Drive was part of a series of protests held by public school supporters around the state against looming reductions in education funding. At least two more rallies are planned for Las Vegas this weekend.
Because of anticipated cuts in state support and declining local tax revenue, the Clark County School District is planning for a budget shortfall of more than $400 million next year.
As a result, Cadwallader expects to lose eight teachers. Class sizes will grow from the 35-to-40-student range to the 40-to-45-student range, teachers said.
"These kids cannot afford a cut," Harris said. "I have taught in other states. We're teaching at two grade levels below what students in other states are learning."
Jim Shoop, a special education teacher, said panels of experts have told the Legislature for the past five years that the state needs to diversify its economy and broaden its tax base.
"Everybody has ignored it," Shoop said. "Now we're in the position we're in."
To generate income for Nevada, Shoop suggested lifting tax exemptions on the mining industry and keeping taxes in place that are expected to sunset.
While Gov. Brian Sandoval has said the state cannot afford to raise taxes during a recession, math teacher John Tocco responded that, "We cannot afford to sacrifice our future either."
Anger over the anticipated reductions in education is fomenting a wave of protests across the valley.
High school students said they plan to rally on the Strip near Caesars Palace at 9 a.m. Friday to bring attention to the funding crisis.
The Clark County Education Association, the teachers union, is gathering at Cashman Field at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Wednesday's rally at Cadwallader was not organized by the union as school staff said they did it on their own.
Teachers marched out of school as soon as their contractual day ended about 2:45 p.m.
Teachers said the timing of the rally was not intended as a threat of a possible work stoppage. They are used to working long hours and don't expect that to change, they said.
Students were welcome to join their rally but were not obligated to participate, teachers said.
Brianna Basolo, 13, an eighth-grader, said she came out "to fight for my education."
She was grateful for the opportunity to speak out, since middle school students don't normally have "a voice. We're not old enough to vote. We don't get a choice" in political leaders.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-374-7917.