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Las Vegas Schools Thirsting For More Funding

Families who are considering a move to Las Vegas in order to be closer to all that fun may need to think twice before doing so. The entire state is suffering a drought on educational funding, and Las Vegas Schools are no exception. Despite a recent Review-Journal poll that had 25 percent of respondents saying that education should be the top priority for the Nevada Legislature, Governor Jim Gibbons, is instead pushing for improved traffic congestion. Among the many issues voters are concerned over, class-size, per-pupil spending, and all-day kindergarten are tops. Las Vegas Schools, along with the other districts statewide, have the nation’s lowest per-pupil expenditure, highest-class sizes, and a pressing shortage of teachers. Speaker of the Assembly, Barbara Buckley refuses to blame the lower tax revenue the state is experiencing on a slower housing market.

“Mediocrity in education funding guarantees mediocrity,” she says. Buckley says that educational issues were put last in the budget. Senator Dina Titus disagrees by stating that “When the state has to make up the hole for property taxes at the local level, that doesn’t leave a lot for education and that’s unfortunate.” This doesn’t seem to make sense, in light of the fact that Las Vegas schools are in the fastest-growing district in the nation, and they aren’t getting any financial help on the local level to improve conditions. State law does require lawmakers to make up for lost money when the tax revenue goes down, but then the state finds itself burning the candle at both ends.

So where is the revenue from this “fastest-growing district in the nation” going? It doesn’t seem to be going towards Las Vegas schools. Improvements that education proponents are looking at for Las Vegas Schools, like all day kindergarten which is seen by most as highly beneficial to students, will likely die at the Legislative level, because of funding issues. Las Vegas schools are hard hit by all of this. Gov. Gibbons even said in his State of the State address that putting off all-day kindergarten was the “fiscally responsible thing to do.” Then he went on to add that money had been found in the budget to work on the state’s roadways. One solution that Las Vegas Schools Superintendent Walt Ruffles has implemented is year-round schools. Nine elementary schools are scheduled to begin the year-round calendar this August. While there is no evidence that students perform better in a traditional 9-month schedule as opposed to the year-round calendar, parents aren’t convinced. District officials also say the Las Vegas Schools cannot afford any more portable classrooms, and the switch to the year-round calendar will allow Las Vegas schools to house more students.

The Nevada State Education Association is considering a plan to go to the voters to solve the funding crisis: it could lobby the Legislature to put the measure on a statewide ballot, or it could collect signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. However, it’s a risky strategy that has failed in 2004. Overall, the communities around Las Vegas schools are supportive of teachers, but don’t think that the Las Vegas schools are very good. Getting the ballot passed could be difficult, unless a standard of excellence for the schools is attached to it. Las Vegas Schools could be great, if only the politicos in Carson City would get their heads out of the asphalt and into the classrooms.


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