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Board of Education District 1 candidates’ red tape-cutting plans differ widely

There’s too much red tape in Nevada’s public school system.

That’s about the only area of agreement for the three candidates vying in Tuesday’s primary election for the State Board of Education, District 1 seat. Their plans, though, to give more control to schools appear as vastly different as the candidates themselves.

Tim Hughes, a director for the nonprofit New Teacher Project, wants people to weigh in on the state-mandated breakup of the Clark County School District before deciding how to make the split. With about 320,000 students and 40,000 employees, the district is the nation’s fifth largest.

Challenger Robert Blakely, an Uber driver and insurance agent, wants one administration to oversee four smaller areas. Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and the county’s rural areas would have different policies, he suggests.

Opponent Ernesto “Doc” Louk, a podiatrist, wants to cut more than 200 administrators who are “feeding from the trough” and allow each of the district’s 356 schools to make decisions.

Hughes, 36, said his experience as a teacher and principal would help him make changes that work for educators and students. He wants them to see how they benefit instead of complying with “mandates that don’t make sense.”

If elected, the Clark High School graduate plans to work on problems that have long plagued the district, such as unequal access to education. “Unfortunately, that’s largely based on race and class,” Hughes said.

Public schools also are putting in place policies to prevent discrimination against transgender students or those having a gender identity that does not match their birth certificate. Some parents and educators have expressed beliefs that the use of restrooms and changing areas based on a student’s gender identity would make others uncomfortable.

Hughes said it’s tough to find a “one-size-fits-all” policy that would work in every situation. He wants all students to feel safe at school so they can focus on learning.

Blakely, 64, admitted he’s a bit uncomfortable with transgender issues. Still, the former University Board of Regents member supports equal rights for transgender students.

Louk, 59, supports letting each school decide on a transgender policy.

The candidates also have differing ideas on how to address chronic teacher shortages.

Blakely wants to focus on recruiting educators who are from Nevada and of a similar race and class as students in their classrooms. He said outsiders are less inclined to stay in the area and are not as effective teachers.

“They have a different viewpoint of the world,” Blakely said.

Hughes wants to do more to keep teachers who already are in classrooms in addition to beefing up recruiting. Louk wants to cut the number of highly paid administrators and free up money to hire more educators.

“We need to get rid of all these bureaucrats,” Louk said.

The top two candidates will advance to the November general election unless one wins more than 50 percent of votes in the primary Tuesday.

Contact Amy Nile at anile@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find @AmyNileReports on Twitter.

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