EDITORIAL: City hasn’t the need, nor funds, to create education department

Now we know why the city of Las Vegas has raised park fees, why its Municipal Court insists on crushing the poor with burdensome fines and why the council is trying to shake down Clark County government for a turf-war tribute. Mayor Carolyn Goodman wants to expand the city’s influence in a realm of government that provides Nevada municipalities with no role whatsoever.

The mayor has sponsored an ordinance that would create the Department of Youth Development and Social Innovation — a long-winded moniker for what amounts to a department of education — and a new department head who’d be paid $152,000 per year by city taxpayers to become what amounts to a Clark County School District lobbyist.

Cities have an important role in public education in states across the country. Nevada isn’t one of them. Each county is its own school district, and those districts are under the state’s umbrella. Cities collect no school taxes and city officials have no role in setting educational policy. Cities provide before- and after-school care at elementary schools within their boundaries, and that’s about it.

Mayor Goodman doesn’t like this setup. Education is important to her, so much so that she founded The Meadows School. But she doesn’t want to serve on the Clark County School Board or in the state Legislature. Instead, she’s determined to establish an education office that creates the appearance that the city has a greater role in public education than it actually does.

Did we mention that the city, long strained by an unsustainable compensation structure, can finally balance its budget without tapping reserves?

No wonder. The salary for the director of the Department of Youth Development and Social Innovation far exceeds that of the state superintendent of schools. Even the governor would make less. And for what, exactly?

Besides overseeing workers who’d be reassigned from the Office of Community Services, the director would lead efforts to research best practices and promote education reforms with the goal of “gaining valuable access to premier institutions, expertise, and local, state and national networks.”

Never mind the proliferation of nonprofits, think tanks and business-backed partnerships dedicated to precisely this same mission — at no expense to taxpayers. Never mind the intense focus on education during the 2015 Legislature, during which all kinds of education reforms were debated in public hearings, with many of them becoming law. The city office is bound to provide priceless new advice and reform guidance. Why else would “Social Innovation” be part of its name?

Already, Mayor Goodman has found many ways to divert city tax dollars into educational causes. The city funds Downtown Achieves, which focuses on lifting academic performance at a handful of downtown public schools. That group’s director is paid $75,000 per year.

“We’re trying to work with the families to get them more involved in students’ lives. … This is where the city is helping,” Mayor Goodman told the Review-Journal’s James DeHaven on Tuesday in explaining her support for a proposal no one asked for, adding that “the earlier we offer opportunities to each child, the better.”

What’s next? The City of Las Vegas Department of Preschool?

The plan will be heard Monday by a City Council Recommending Committee and could be considered by the full council next month. We have a much better, much cheaper alternative: Reject the reorganization, the new department and the new hire, and simply have Mayor Goodman continue to champion education on her own time. Keep the city out of public education.

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