Students protest

About 400 to 500 students walked out of Desert Oasis High School from 8:05 to 8:35 a.m. Thursday to protest possible state budget cuts.

The students will face no consequences for missing a half-hour of their instructional time, according to school district officials, since they sought and received permission from school Principal Emil Wozniak for their "walkout."

It's nice to see the youngsters paying some attention to current events that could impact them. Though the approval from their administrators for this extended coffee break does raise an obvious question:

Would Mr. Wozniak show equal tolerance for a group of students who wanted to spend half an hour of their class time picketing in front of the school, protesting the unwillingness of their union teachers and administrators to voluntarily accept pay and benefit cuts in order to lessen the school system's tax burden on struggling private-sector families?

After all, the Clark County School District operating budget has risen from $1.4 billion in 2004 to $3.73 billion in planned expenditures for the current, 2009-2010 school year, putting talk of "cuts" in some perspective.

Yes, some of that can be explained by population growth. But per pupil spending is actually up from $7,546 last year to $7,617 this year -- the district's own figures -- in the depths of a recession, despite the fact school populations have been stagnant (if not actually falling) for more than a year.

A large number of the district's schools fail to meet modest standards of literacy and numeracy, yet only slightly more than half the district's employees actually work in a classroom. Can anyone not directly benefiting from this set-up argue this is a model of effectiveness and efficiency?

Superintendent Walt Rulffes should check to make sure Mr. Wozniak's tolerance for student political speech and protest during class time isn't restricted to "tax-and-spend" messages pre-approved by the administration and its employee unions. If opposing views aren't as welcome, someone should be disciplined, all right.

But it should not be Mr. Wozniak's impressionable young charges. It should be Mr. Wozniak.