Public education is our most powerful resource; are you ready to fight for it?

Public education is our most powerful resource; are you ready to fight for it?

Posted by admin, Category: Announcements, Community, HOPE News,

Like clockwork, every biennium legislators and voters clamor to amend the Nevada Constitution in favor of a state lottery to raise money for our failing K-12 public education. And we can sure use it: Nevada’s students are only funded at an average of $8,441, compared to the national average of $12,156.

Surprisingly, Nevada voters don’t realize what they’re asking for with a lottery already exists in the State Supplemental School Support tax, aka IP1. This initiative petition, voted in during the 2009 session, raised dollars to supplement (as its name implies) the per-pupil spending in Nevada.

Since Nevada ranks at the bottom of the national list for public education funding, this was something to celebrate. But hold the confetti.

Immediately upon passing, ALL the IP1 money was taken by the Nevada Legislature to shore up the State’s General Fund during the recession. Nevada’s economy has since course-corrected but the dollars are still not acting as a SUPPLEMENT to our students, instead they SUPPLANT what the state now doles out from its General Fund.

Is the IP1 money enough to really help our students? Well, since 2011 the total amount Nevada’s public education students WOULD have gotten is an additional $1.2 billion, if our Legislators had followed the will of their constituents. $1.2 billion. That’s billion with a “B.”

The recreational marijuana tax is another example of how taxes that were sold to voters as a supplement to education are in reality being supplanted to somewhere else, namely a “rainy day fund.” And considering Nevada public education’s bottom-of-the-barrel ranking on so many lists, and a 30 percent proficiency ranking in 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores, most reasonable people would agree that yes, this is a rainy-day situation.

Nevada’s General Fund also gets richer when local economies add money to student funding. For example, when property taxes bring in more revenue, the State deducts from its contribution to students. Voila! Surplus in the General Fund.

Ironically, CCSD students are being penalized for our local economy’s “wealth,” even when three-quarters of CCSD schools — 272 out of 355 — are designated as Title I schools, meeting the threshold for poverty.

And, even when there is any “leftover” money for public education, it is reverted back to the State’s General Fund. This last biennium, the total our children sacrificed was $21 million.

This deliberate system of inadequately funding students is called the Nevada Plan, and it’s a half-century-old shell-game of a method to fund our State’s needs on the backs of our children.

The way Nevada pays for public education doesn’t have to be so archaic, ineffective, and convoluted though. Our Legislators have chosen not to fix the Nevada Plan, and by doing so they created a lottery system for all of our public ed students.

Let’s be clear: Nevada’s students are in a lottery for limited seats in magnet programs; they are in a lottery for getting a quality teacher rather than a long-term substitute, or an actual desk in an overcrowded classroom; and they are in a lottery for a shot at graduating high school in a state that has increased rigor and requirements but has not increased any money or time to support them.

“Good ideas” from Legislators without additional funding has become the norm, and compliance to each new law is a link in the chain around the necks of districts, school staff and volunteers.

The well-respected McKinsey & Company reported on The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools and found that “Avoidable shortfalls in academic achievement impose heavy and often tragic consequences, via lower earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of incarceration. … (And) these educational gaps impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”

Year after year our Legislators say they support making changes to the K-12 system — and they certainly never miss a campaign opportunity to say they are the “biggest” supporters of education — but in reality they do very little.

Legislators cannot afford to wait for high-powered lobbyists to (pro-bono) act on behalf of families, or for Nevada’s population to stop being the fastest growing, or for our students’ demographics to suddenly change, or for poverty levels to spontaneously drop.

Legislators must act now and commit to:
• Immediately and aggressively change the Nevada Plan.
• Put all SUPPLEMENTAL tax dollars given in the name of education back to education for ALL students.
• Ensure Nevada’s future generations receive a high-quality public education that is adequately funded based on student need, including current and new mandates.

A good public education is the most powerful resource we have and it should be in every student’s toolbox. It’s time we reclaim our lottery winnings and stop supporting politicians who have no intention of changing the future for Nevada’s next generations. Whether or not you have children in school, as a taxpayer this should infuriate you. Are you ready to bi-partisanly sue everyone elected to State office? We are.

#FundOurFutureNV