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Nevada public education supporters go ‘Red for Ed’ at rallies

Teachers and parents don’t want another study to figure out where Nevada stands in public education.

They want action.

That was the message public education advocates spread at a “Red for Ed” rally Monday in Las Vegas as they aimed to capitalize on a Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

The rally, modeled after similar pushes for higher funding in other states, called on legislators to fix the decades-old Nevada Plan education funding formula and boost the average base spending of $5,967 per pupil — among the lowest in the nation.

Chet Miller of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada told the roughly 70 people attending the rally, many of them clad in red, that the time has come for for legislators to do what they promised.

“Every time they kick the can, that’s another generation lost,” he said.

Other speakers also called for an end to the cycle of studies, mandates and “more of the same” initiatives that they see coming out of the state capital.

“We need a new funding formula that provides a base amount that is enough to cover all the requirements and mandates the state puts forth and allows our kids to graduate and be successful,” said Jenn Blackhurst, president of the HOPE for Nevada education advocacy group.

A similar rally was held Monday in Carson City.

Nevada consistently ranks low in the national education arena — not only in academics but also in funding. The latest Quality Counts report card gave the state an F in school finance, the same grade it earned in a 2018 Education Law Center report on the topic.

Its funding formula was created in 1967, when the demographics of Clark County were vastly different.

Speakers in Las Vegas said the state should increase overall spending and not just redistribute the money currently available for public education.

“We need to make sure that we don’t just cut up the pie in a different way,” said parent Rebecca Garcia. “A 1 or 2 percent increase in the next two years is not going to change and provide the resources that we need. It is time that we work together as parents, educators and community members to demand that our legislators and governor fulfill those promises because we can do it, and we can be that change in Nevada.”

That includes sending the retail tax on marijuana to schools, as Gov. Steve Sisolak has proposed in his budget, speakers said.

It also includes returning the 2009 Initiative Petition 1 tax, which imposed a 3 percent room tax in Clark and Washoe counties to supplement education.

Instead of going into a separate supplemental account to boost education, that money has gone directly into the state’s regular Distributive School Account for education, where it replaces rather than adds to current funding, critics say.

Roughly $893.7 million was diverted from the supplemental account to the school account from fiscal year 2012 through 2017.

Although legislators have introduced a bill to reshape the funding formula, the additional funding would ease concerns among educators in rural communities they may see funding decline.

“If you took every single dollar of state aid money from Douglas County, brought it here to Clark County — all of that money — it would destroy our kids. (And) it wouldn’t even reduce class size by one person,” said Brian Rippet, a Douglas County teacher and vice president of the Nevada State Education Association. “We need new funding. We need new funding now.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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