State Lawmakers Disappoint Las Vegas Schools
The most recent Nevada session did little to alleviate the feeling in Las Vegas Schools that public education is low on the state’s list of priorities. As Las Vegas Schools try to educate a large and diverse urban community the state of Nevada doesn’t offer much support. Spending per pupil in the state is about ,800 less than the national average. Las Vegas Schools, along with other education and healthcare advocates, expressed disappointment at the legislature’s inability to bring the state to what some call a minimal standard of care.
One of the biggest disappointments to parents and educators of Las Vegas Schools was the lack of money to fund a universal all-day kindergarten program. According to a recent Las Vegas Sun article, educational advocates like Mary Jo Parise-Malloy of the Nevadans for Quality Education said that, “Until our per-pupil funding levels come up, and we’re providing basic, adequate support, our students are not going anywhere. We’re wasting our time.”
With a national initiative that requires all students to achieve “proficiency” on state exams by 2014, and that requires “highly qualified teachers” for math and science, Las Vegas Schools have a long road ahead. Teacher pay raises for Las Vegas Schools’ teachers were last raised by 2% in 2001, and are slated for a 4% increase in 2009. Las Vegas Schools’ districts, like Clark County, expect to have vacancies in the thousands for the 2007-2008 school year. One bright spot of the recent session was that incentives for teachers in at-risk schools were maintained. Las Vegas Schools’ teacher advocates are waiting to find out if those incentives can be handed out as cash bonuses rather than retirement pay.
While Las Vegas Schools’ educators aren’t exactly joyful, there were some winners in the funding announcements. Las Vegas Schools can expect to benefit from a grant of million to fund remediation and innovation programs over the next two years. Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction said, “the budget is a “fair compromise” due to “divergent views and declining reviews.”
The Clark County district of Las Vegas Schools will be able to add between 30-40 full day kindergartens in some of its high-risk schools. Many Las Vegas Schools’ educators support full day kindergarten for low-income students because it can offer them needed social and academic skills. The national trend towards all day kindergartens is not always embraced by educators, but the use of the method for students in poverty has wider acceptance. At the end of the day students, teachers and parents in Las Vegas Schools express a lack of faith in the state’s commitment to education. In the words of John Jasonek, Las Vegas Schools teacher advocate, the recent session is “another sad commentary about this state’s lack of commitment to education.”