The two candidates vying for Nevada State Board of Education District 3 have taken different approaches to a state-mandated plan to break up the Clark County School District.
Felicia Ortiz, who was appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Sandoval in February, has been a consistent supporter of the split, which will turn every school in the district into individual precincts with more control over budget, instruction and staffing decisions.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Ortiz said of the plan, which was launched Sept. 9 and will be in place in 2017. “I wish we would have taken a little bit more time (to carry out the breakup). That’s the only major drawback. That being said, I’m positive there is an opportunity for this to have a positive impact on the community.”
Both candidates are business executives and said their financial expertise will help them ensure that the breakup won’t broaden wealth gaps among Southern Nevada’s schools. The State Board of Education is poised to oversee the plan’s implementation and its effect on financial equity among schools.
“We have to ensure this doesn’t result in further disparity in the amount of funding between communities of need and wealthier communities,” Hales said.
The candidates also disagree on the merits of the federal Common Core State Standards initiative. Common Core standards aim to raise student achievement by standardizing material taught at K-12 schools across the country.
“We have to make sure we’re in a position to compare ourselves to other states and make sure we’re competitive,” Ortiz said. “The standards give us a measuring stick.”
Hales, however, said he’s “very wary of one-size-fits-all, centrally directed standards,” although he thinks the federally set guidelines “have good intentions.”
Nevertheless, he said he’s encouraged by the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives states more freedom to set K-12 teaching requirements.