Whatever good vibrations existed between the Clark County School District and state leaders have been wiped out in the aftermath of a legislative session that was supposed to be celebrated.
Has Southern Nevada‘s foundering public education system been fixed? No, it has not. It most definitely has not. Despite new reforms, new accountability measures, new programs, new taxes and new spending, the new school year is set to begin with the same old complaints about ‘"cuts" and an all-too-familiar pay freeze for educators and support employees.
Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending into public schools, with most of that money — more than $160 million — benefiting Clark County. Yet for weeks, Clark County School Board members have been seething about what they assert is a $15 reduction in state per-student support, to a little more than $5,500 per child. The district has a $67 million budget deficit that will be bridged, in part, by eliminating contracted pay raises for all employees and increasing class sizes.
The complaints about the "cut‘" are completely disingenuous, given the expansions of full-day kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, English language learning programs, career and technical education, and on and on. The reality is that lawmakers and the governor — and countless people who testified in legislative hearings — don‘t trust the School Board and the administration with control of those resources. The funds were walled off, directed at specific initiatives, to ensure they weren‘t thrown into the CCSD pot and spent on something else. And the School Board‘s whining shows those concerns were completely justified.
No wonder the Legislature moved to break up the school district. No wonder Gov. Sandoval wanted to blow up school boards as they‘re currently constituted. Too bad that reform didn‘t pass.
It‘s hard to not feel sympathy for teachers and support staff, so many of whom deserve to be paid more. But their profession is governed by a one-size-fits-all pay structure with no basis in performance. Ending this rigidity and giving each school more independence would help. So would management and oversight capable of making hard decisions to maximize classroom resources.
Ax the school district police force. Outsource some support services. Prune the central bureaucracy. For heaven‘s sake, more than half of the district‘s employees are nonteachers. And the state needs to ditch the inflexible class-size restrictions that inflate higher-grade classrooms.
If anyone thinks the 2017 Legislature is going to raise taxes again and pour even more money into public education, they‘re sorely mistaken.