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EDITORIAL: City overreaches with Downtown Achieves

Municipal governments in Nevada have nothing to do with education. Cities have no role in funding schools, no role in governing schools and no role in setting education policy. That has always bothered plenty of elected city council members over the years, because platitudes about schools help candidates win low-turnout municipal elections.

But Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is so determined to inject the city bureaucracy into public education that she’s willing to spend your money to do it — at the expense of the services the city is charged with providing.

Since last year, the city has poured $200,000 into Downtown Achieves, an organization created to help the Clark County School District provide social services for children who attend 11 public schools in the downtown area. And last week, Downtown Achieves announced it had hired its first executive administrator: Michelle Layon, former promotions director for KLAS-TV, Channel 8. She’ll be paid $75,000 per year, plus benefits.

But Ms. Layon won’t merely report to the Downtown Achieves board. As reported last week by the Review-Journal’s James DeHaven, she’ll report to the city of Las Vegas as well. Las Vegas spokeswoman Diana Paul told Mr. DeHaven that Ms. Layon’s position will be funded mostly by the city, with some help from a grant provided by Wells Fargo.

Too many times to count, we’ve noted in this space that Las Vegas has serious budget problems. It spends more than it takes in, tapping reserves to fund operating expenses. It faces huge unfunded building maintenance obligations and rising payments on the new City Hall. Services, most importantly public safety and parks, already are being squeezed — parks and recreation fees were just increased. The city and its taxpayers can’t afford even the slightest bit of mission creep.

The Clark County School District already has a sizable bureaucracy, as well as partnerships with social service agencies and nonprofits, dedicated to helping students in need. Yet now taxpayers from the entire city are supporting a feel-good job and an organization dedicated to only a handful of schools concentrated in downtown. Downtown Achieves has nothing to do with achievement — it’s about social welfare.

For the amount of money the city is giving to Downtown Achieves, it could support a new Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer. But Mayor Goodman already has a solution in mind to fund more police officers: a sales tax increase.

Imagine the outrage if the Clark County School Board handed over $100,000 in K-12 funding to the city of Las Vegas for a park or to support a fire station. What the city is doing is no different. Keep the city out of our schools. We can’t afford it.

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