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CCSD superintendent slams proposed efforts to break up school district

Updated September 17, 2022 - 12:50 pm

On the heels of a move endorsed by several chambers of commerce to break up the Clark County School District, Superintendent Jesus Jara on Friday pushed back, calling those efforts “bias-based fiction” that would abandon students with the most needs.

Clark County, the fifth-largest school district in the country with approximately 300,000 students, has recently faced concerns over low rankings nationally, school safety and talks of being placed into receivership.

Earlier this week, six Southern Nevada chambers of commerce announced that they were endorsing a ballot initiative that — if passed by the Nevada Legislature next year or approved by voters in 2024 — would let local governing bodies opt out of the school district and create their own.

The Vegas Chamber, Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Urban Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce and Boulder City Chamber of Commerce all support the initiative.

In an email sent Friday to the school community, Jara said these efforts were not new and would do nothing to address student performance.

“This current effort is based not on facts but on a bias-based fiction predicated on ignoring the evidence,” he wrote. “The size of the student population does not matter; what matters is the size of the state’s financial commitment to its children.”

Nevada rates average in the nation when it comes to K-12 academic achievement, despite “inadequate” per-pupil funding, according to Jara.

The district, like others around the country, is also experiencing a teacher shortage that prompted a five-day pause during the last school year. On Friday, Jara said the district currently has a 26-to-1 teacher/student ratio, a rate that is considerably higher than the national average of 17-to-1.

But Jara said the breakup efforts would create “civil rights challenges” and desert less affluent families and students in communities with the most needs.

“We invite those who continue advocating for breaking up the district to join us in focusing on student outcomes and not pitting communities against each other…” he wrote. “By working as one community and one school district to fund education beyond the current last-in-the nation rate, we will benefit all students no matter their needs.”

In endorsing the ballot initiative on Monday, Peter Guzman, president and CEO of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said that “everything that can benefit a young person’s education should be on the table.”

But district spokesperson Tod Story told the Review-Journal on Friday that talks of breaking up the district were “soundbites” that don’t deal with the realities of the educators who work daily to improve academic excellence among students across the district.

“Superintendent Jara wanted to remind them to keep doing the good work that they’re doing, never mind the noise and focus on our students,” he said.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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