Clark County school budget cuts won’t be applied equally

Updated May 15, 2018 - 7:18 pm

As Clark County schools struggle to erase more than $60 million in red ink for the second year in a row, the burden is falling more heavily on the “haves” more than the “have nots.”

That’s because much of the additional state education funding approved in recent years has targeted “at-risk students” who either don’t speak English or live in poverty. Schools that receive those funds are now able to use the money to offset most of the newly ordered budget cuts, while those that don’t get the additional funds can’t.

The result, say principals and their school organizational teams redrawing spending plans to address the $68 million deficit revealed last week, will be increased class sizes, decreased services and fewer technology upgrades, with the biggest impact falling on schools in the county’s most affluent communities.

“It’s going to be absurd. How can you reach kids with that many kids in a classroom? How can you engage that many kids? And then the physical space. They’re sitting on top of each other, they’re sitting on the floor,” said Darren Sweikart, the principal at Palo Verde High School, which receives none of the targeted or “categorized” funding.

In the current round of cuts, Sweikart must trim $577,000, or 4.8 percent of his $11.9 million budget. That will make the Las Vegas high school one of the hardest hit in the Clark County School District because it serves more than 3,100 students and the budget cuts are allocated on a per-pupil basis.

As a result, Sweikart thinks he’ll leave empty three open positions — two teachers and one assistant principal — and probably cut an administrative secretarial position. He’s hoping he won’t have to make further cuts in the fall, but that will depend on whether more students enroll, bringing additional state funding with them.

Bigger classes coming

He’ll also have to stop asking teachers to work extra classes in lieu of preparation time because he no longer has the money to compensate them. That will mean increased class sizes.

Other schools, like Mojave High School in North Las Vegas, aren’t going to feel the pain to the same degree. Because Mojave gets additional state and federal money to help students in poverty or those who haven’t mastered English, Principal Greg Cole says he will only have to leave two open positions vacant.

He had planned to use the extra money to bring in two new teachers and a second computer technician next year, but now the school will just try to hold steady.

“We’re in a little bit better shape than some schools out there,” Assistant Principal Tim Wells said.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky sent a memo to principals last week instructing them to reopen their strategic budgets and make $47 million in cuts to help close a $68 million budget shortfall. The central offices will cut budgets by the remaining $21 million. That’s slightly larger than last year’s budget deficit, which ballooned to $60 million before it was tamed.

The district blames the new deficit primarily on an arbitrator’s decision in favor of the teachers union in a contract dispute. The district is challenging the decision in court but is asking schools to trim their budgets in the meantime.

In other words, the raise for teachers could cause some to lose their jobs.

But principals are reluctant to blame teachers for the current predicament, instead decrying what they see as a broken system of funding education in Nevada.

“Everybody talks about the kids, but until people start making choices at the polling booth that reflect their emphasis on education, nothing will change,” said Kent Roberts, principal of Green Valley High School in Henderson. “… Nobody wants to pay more in taxes, but you have to have money to run an organization.”

Tough choices

Roberts said he’ll likely have to cut seven or eight positions, though he isn’t sure where since he had yet to meet with his school organizational team. Like Palo Verde, Green Valley doesn’t get additional state funding for at-risk students.

In the four years he’s been principal, Roberts estimates he’s lost over 20 positions. Early this year, when he found out he was not going to receive a categorical grant from the state in the fall, he had to cut the four positions that money funded last year.

Roberts said he feels like he’s already cut through flesh and bone, and now is coming out the other side.

“It’s approaching the point of absurdity, that’s as succinctly as I can put it,” he said.

The cuts are also hitting middle and elementary schools hard.

Leavitt Middle School, for example, was set to move to a block schedule in the fall. Under that scheme, students would have attended four classes a day on a two-day rotation, up from the current six classes a day. That would have given students more opportunities for remediation or electives along with more time in core classes like math.

But with $245,000 to cut, Principal Keith Wipperman said he can’t swing the block schedule anymore. Instead he anticipates at least two teachers will be reassigned to other schools.

“I’m losing what I thought was going to be an amazing opportunities for our kids,” he said.

Katie Decker, one of the district’s franchise principals, oversees three different elementary schools.

Two of her three schools get Victory funding, one of several state initiatives targeting English language learners and children in poverty. One does not.

That school, the Walter Bracken STEAM Academy magnet school, is consequently being harder hit than Long and Hollingsworth elementaries. She said she had hoped to use Title I funding at Bracken to update the school’s outdated technology, but that’s out of the picture.

From her vantage point overseeing three schools, Decker says it’s clear that the Legislature needs to address the funding disparities.

“Everybody is yelling at us that we’re not using our funding right, but the truth of the matter is we’re not being given enough to manage right,” she said. “It’s about the base and the base is not high enough.”

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

News
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing