June 3, 2023 - 9:00 pm
“Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” has long been a metaphor for futility. Shuffling up the Clark County School Board may soon join it.
On Friday, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed Assembly Bill 175. It will add four new members to the the local Board of Trustees. The Clark County Commission and city councils of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas will each appoint one member. Unlike the seven elected members of the board, the four appointed members won’t be able to vote. They will participate in other board activities, including closed-door sessions, evaluations and briefings.
The goal of this proposal is to improve operations in the Clark County School District. There’s ample need for that. The board has long made itself a laughingstock. It delayed reopening schools during the COVID pandemic. It fired and then unfired Superintendent Jesus Jara. The sophmoric soap opera drama between some trustees in previous years may have made for an interesting reality TV show, but it wasn’t amusing for students stuck in failing schools.
Poor leadership has led to poor results. In-school violence became so out-of-control last year that Mr. Jara decided to actually punish students. Trustees approved gutting grading standards. Even a massive pay hike before this past school year couldn’t stem the tide of teacher vacancies. An initiative to break up the district almost qualified for the ballot.
So there’s much to improve. But let’s not deceive ourselves. This bill is window dressing. Adding four board members with second-class status will do nothing but lengthen the meetings. The problem isn’t that the board is too small, but that it keeps making poor choices. Increasing the behind-the scenes palace intrigue isn’t an obvious path to improvement and will do little to bolster academic achievement.
But there is something worth learning amid this mess. Gov. Lombardo and lawmakers have been celebrating massive budget increases for Nevada’s broken public schools. Precious few people have asked the obvious question: How will that money improve student outcomes?
As this bill inadvertently makes obvious, the connection isn’t clear. Legislators support a remake of the board as a way to flex their muscles and exert control. Yet they’re also eager to provide the district with more than $1 billion in additional funding. If you don’t trust the board’s governance, showering money on the district is an odd way to show it.
But this is the absurd theater that Nevada voters have witnessed for decades when it comes to the public schools. Cries for more money are answered and then linked with meaningless or soon-repealed accountability measures. Academic achievement remains dismal, prompting cries for more money. Repeat, ad nauseam.
AB175 is just the latest chapter in this ongoing saga.