Collaboration key to education’s future

On Nov. 4, Nevadans will vote on the Education Initiative, or Question 3. Over the next 50 days, voters will be bombarded with campaign ads for and against Question 3. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent in this campaign, money that could be better spent.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Education Initiative was placed on the ballot out of frustration, because nothing has been done to adequately fund Nevada’s public school system. We have seen far too many legislative sessions come and go where promises were made to fund our schools. When additional revenue means more taxes, powerful interests line up in opposition. Promises made are never kept.

Today, we are seeing this occur once again. That’s why Question 3 — which would impose a 2 percent margin tax on businesses with at least $1 million in annual revenue — is on the ballot.

So when the Review-Journal published an op-ed by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance on Aug. 27, inviting educators to collaborate with business to improve pre-K-12 education, we received it with cautious optimism. It is good that Nevada has an enlightened business group such as the LVGEA that encourages dialogue seeking solutions, rather than just saying “no.”

Traditionally, Nevada has seen this type of leadership from the gaming community, but we recognize that the state can no longer rely on gaming and tourism alone to meet all of our state’s needs. Every stakeholder, including the broader business community, must participate in the future of education funding.

Educators are collaborators. We look for solutions. We partner with like-minded people to achieve objectives. It is in both educators’ and business leaders’ interests to improve Nevada’s public education system. As educators, we want our students to achieve. Business leaders want a strong, competitive economy, and the key to that is an educated workforce. We should be collaborating.

The Clark County School District started the year with more than 600 teaching positions filled by substitutes. That means more than 30,000 students will not have a qualified, licensed teacher in their classroom and many more thousands will again be placed in portable classrooms instead of real classrooms.

Our classes are overcrowded. The growing challenges of both poverty and English Language Learners demand more resources for students to achieve. For educators to be successful in meeting the needs of students, we need relevant and adequate professional development.

With that said, we agree that measurable accountability must accompany additional funding. We are not asking for funding for the sake of funding. We need funding that produces results, that improves student achievement. Taxpayers need a return on their investment.

For too long, there has been a leadership deficit in Nevada when it comes to addressing public education. It is good to see the LVGEA step up to provide leadership in this discussion. Leadership means taking risks and being innovative. We accept the invitation to collaborate to find solutions.

But trust is earned, not given. During the 2013 legislative session, the Nevada State Education Association asked for a bipartisan solution to education funding. That rings more true today than it did two years ago. With business leaders, educators and lawmakers from both political parties working collaboratively, we can find solutions for our school system. Our children’s future depends on it.

Ruben Murillo is president of the Nevada State Education Association.

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