Contrary to commentary, schools making progress

To the editor:

Even after 12 years on the Clark County School Board, we continue to be surprised by the amount of misinformation concerning our school district that circulates in this community, characterized by the opinions of Nevada Policy Research Institute researcher Karen Gray (Jan. 4 Review-Journal). Many of her statements were in error, and her opinions merely reflect battles she has lost. The voters deserve a response.

Contrary to Ms. Gray’s assessment, progress is being made. Of the 10 largest school districts in the nation, only the Clark County School District has made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Every district school has seen growth in test scores over the past three years.

The statement that SAT scores dropped 15 points fails to note that scores dropped nationwide due to a change in the test format in 2005-06. It was certainly not due to Policy Governance — the operating principles of the board — and ACT scores have not seen the same decline. With more students than ever taking the college entrance exams, aggregate scores may indeed fall because we no longer test just the highest-achieving students.

National norm-referenced tests do not use student demographics comparable to those of Clark County, so to compare test scores, one must also examine the demographics involved. Over the past 12 years, our student population has changed dramatically, posing additional challenges. The English Language Learner population has more than doubled, and the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunch has skyrocketed to 42.5 percent of the population.

A good researcher knows that comparing apples and oranges leads to inaccurate and misleading results.

Particularly troubling was Ms. Gray’s contention that our schools remain crowded, while criticizing the district for its bond indebtedness. Schools are built with bonds or debt received from issuing bonds. With schools built to accommodate the growing population, double sessions have been avoided. It’s disingenuous to blame the district for overcrowding when we have no control over the number of students enrolled and at the same time criticize us for building schools and using efficient means to address the student population.

Ms. Gray was also critical of the growth in district spending during the 12 years we served on the board, but she only presents part of the picture. The national average for public education grew from $5,923 to $10,484 per pupil during this period, an increase of $4,561, or 77 percent. Clark County’s per-pupil spending increased by $2,482 or 57 percent during the same period, and much of the budget growth resulted from an increase in student population, not in per-pupil funding. We are still way behind the curve when it comes to per-pupil funding.

Finally, let us address Policy Governance, the board’s method of setting goals and measuring the superintendent’s performance. It is trademarked, not “commercially sold” as Ms. Gray opines. It is a method of conducting the board’s business. Ms. Gray wrote that former Trustee Shirley Barber “fought the concept (of Policy Governance) to the end,” something that is patently untrue. Mrs. Barber repeatedly voted to keep the system in place and can be heard in many of the board’s recorded minutes saying, “If we’re going to have it we need to be doing it right.”

Our hope is that our community can work together positively to make needed improvements. While things are not perfect in the Clark County School District, students continue to make progress, and the taxpayers’ dollars are well spent. Constructive criticism can help the district. Opinions and half-truths, particularly when masquerading as “research,” contribute nothing to meaningful change.

We remain proud to have served the people of Clark County for 12 years as school trustees.

Mary Beth Scow

HENDERSON

Ruth L. Johnson

NORTH LAS VEGAS

THE WRITERS WERE MEMBERS OF THE CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD FROM 1996 TO 2008.

Thanks, Harry

To the editor:

Just a quick note of thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for working hard to kill off the Yucca Mountain Project, the largest public works project in the history of the world. It would have required the expenditure of some $100 billion in Nevada. It would have created 8,000 jobs to construct a railroad to transport nuclear waste there, almost 3,000 long-term jobs to build the repository and almost 3,000 very-long-term operational jobs.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for killing off the one project that has brought thousands of highly educated and compensated Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers from around the world to Nevada. Thank you for reducing their numbers from 2,700 last year to 1,700 this year to maybe zero next year.

Thank you for adding all of those homes and all of that office space in Summerlin that they occupied to the foreclosure and vacancy list.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for creating one of the worst economies in the United States, one that has no ability to support the general welfare, education, public health or transportation needs of its citizens.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for not negotiating with the federal government to make the Yucca Mountain Project even safer.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for not working cooperatively with those who want to turn Yucca Mountain into an international center for research and recycling, thus significantly reducing the volume and toxicity of the nuclear waste requiring permanent storage.

Thank you, Sen. Reid, for all of those entertaining, factually incorrect, fear-mongering news releases that you’ve issued regarding Yucca Mountain, even as you harm the future of Nevada and our great country.

SHARON SEVIGNY

LAS VEGAS

Compassion industry

To the editor:

The apologists and enablers for the state of Nevada’s compassion industry want us to believe that Nevada will be mired in the Dark Ages if our so-called public servants take a pay cut. Poppycock.

The problem in Carson City is not a lack of tax revenue; it is the outrageous expense to administer redistribution of wealth. Almost every government program can report that less than 30 percent of the budgeted expenditures ever reach the intended recipients. The real beneficiaries of Nevada’s compassion industry are the public servants. The elderly, the permanently poor, the unemployables, the drug addicts and the criminals are merely the reason for our dedicated public servants to redistribute wealth to themselves.

I think I can speak for a million-plus Nevadans who provide for themselves, pay their bills and obligations and live respectable lives. We don’t need the compassion industry — the public servants need us.

The governor’s proposed 6 percent pay cut should also include a cut in tax-free benefits and the guaranteed pension plan. When we enter the Dark Ages, will the last person to leave Carson City please turn out the lights?

There seems to be only one man in Carson City who is willing to fight for the majority, and he has been crucified by the media. We owe him a debt of thanks.

CURTIS F. CLARK

BOULDER CITY

Insulting, incensing

To the editor:

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed pay cuts for teachers are illegal based on teachers’ negotiated contracts. His suggestion serves to illustrate his total ignorance of the differences between teachers and other state workers regarding our pay scale and our “step” pay increases.

Teachers are already underpaid for what we do. Many of us work second jobs just to pay the bills. We also are required to pay out of our own pocket to take classes just to keep our jobs. If we would like to move up the pay scale, we again pay out of our pockets to acquire advanced degrees. If we do not continue to work all day and then attend school at night or on the weekend, we do not receive pay raises outside of the cost-of-living increases granted by the Legislature.

We spend our own time and money to barely move up the salary scale to make a few thousand dollars more per step. This is the difference between teachers and other state workers that I think the governor does not seem to be in touch with.

To now suggest that all of our out-of-pocket money and our own time and effort put forth to receive an advanced education is null and void is not only insulting but incensing.

Tiffany Sebuliba

HENDERSON

THE WRITER IS A CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACHER.

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