Something amazing happened in Nevada in the 2016 election. Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature. There is still a Republican governor.
Angie Sullivan is a second-grade teacher in Nevada who often writes letters to legislators and journalists, to keep them grounded in the reality of the classroom. Nevada has what is very likely the worst performing charter sector in the nation; most of the state’s lowest performing schools are charter schools. It also has a voucher program with no income limits, that is utilized by affluent families to underwrite private school tuition. It is starting an “achievement school district,” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee and the one that voters in Georgia just rejected, where state officials may take over public schools with low scores and hand them over to charter operators.
Here is Angie with her good-sense newsletter:
Educators have been forced to become issue based in our state. We can no longer afford to depend wholly on either party. We have to get things done and work with any ally.
We have to get things done.
We will not get everything we want but we have to make headway.
Last session I was proud of the leadership in my state.
Teachers are used to compromise – we do it everyday to make headway for kids. Please be willing to do the same again this session.
These are my asks.
First Ask: A real teacher in every classroom –
In the recent past, politicians, administrators and businessmen have scape-goated Nevada’s education problems onto those working directly with students – the teachers.
This has lead to unfunded mandates, witch-hunt type behavior, firing professionals, and driving off good teachers in our state. This never made sense – since the classroom teacher is directed by many others and very little is in our control at any level. My day is outlined and many classrooms are micromanaged to the point of damaging students. And the supplies are very limited. Teachers were blamed none-the-less.
These attacks on professional teachers occurred on both sides of the aisle.
We are the front line. We never were the enemy.
Now we have at-risk schools filled with under-prepared people struggling to become an educator. It is the poor, the disenfranchised, and the needy who do not have a teacher for several years in a row. If a child has an IEP and a special education need, they probably do not have a prepared professional to implement the plan.
This is reform?
We need to step back from attacks on collective bargaining, whittling teacher due process, and proclamations that skilled teachers are the problem. Filling our schools with temporary labor is damaging a generation of students – mainly students of color.
Spending all our time looking for the “lemon” instead of retaining the “good guys” is costly in more ways than one.
Second Ask: Stop funding scams and craziness.
In an effort to produce quick results, Nevada grabs ideas from other states. These ideas have not proven themselves and flaunt questionable research. None have proven effective with populations as diverse as ours. These Nevada legislative ideas are failing on epic levels and need to be cleaned up.
– Charters are a disaster in Nevada. The amount of fraud, embezzlement, and criminal type behavior occurring in Nevada’s charters is astounding. The bipartisan legislature who supported and implemented reform by charter needs to put some teeth into laws to clean this mess up. I’m adding up the cost and it is millions and millions.
– Read-by-Three which is grant based will fund programs in the north. 75% of the students in need are in the south but the way the language was built – only a drizzle of funding will help students who are most likely to be punished by this legislation in Vegas. Again Nevada demands rigor without giving students and teachers resources to get the job done. Punishing 8 year olds without giving them adequate opportunity is a violation of civil rights. Read-by-Three has only been successful in states willing to fully fund early intervention. And that costs a significant amount of money. States which implement Read-By-Three as Nevada is doing without funding – fail miserably. This is not tough love – it is a crime.
-ASD [Achievement School District] is scary. Due to our lack of per pupil funding, Nevada cannot attract viable charter operators. We spent $10 million on a harbor master, Allison Serafin, to attract charters to Nevada. What a waste. We will now replace 6 failing public schools with charters who have failed elsewhere. To be watched over by the same system that allows the charter systems in Nevada to fail on an epic level already. Just how much are we spending on the Charter Authority and other groups responsible for overseeing charters? Do we continue to ask public schools to be accountable while ignoring the atrocious failure of charters? And we force charters on communities of color with the ASD – in the name of school choice. Force is not choice.
– ESA [Education Savings Accounts–or vouchers] is scary. A treasurer will determine education curriculum and spot check for fraud. Parents will “police themselves”. Blank checks will be given to mainly white affluent parents to take wherever they like or allow children to lay on the couch. And those checks will go to 8,000 applicants in the amount of $40 million in tax payer money. While lack of regulation sounds like a great idea, in Nevada education it leads to waste and fraud. This is a nightmare of waste ready to happen.
We have little money for real research based best practice but have spent millions on unproven and failing reform.
Ten years of reform and limited gains. Some reform may have damaged a generator. Of learners. Time for a return to the steady growth produced by funding best practice. It’s not fancy or flashy but it works.
Third Ask: Funding Fairness.
The Southern Caucus needs to advocate for our children.
In a bipartisan manner, the southern caucus needs to work and make progress for our children. Teachers and students need our legislators to do the heavy lift for the kids in our area. Frankly we need money.
The south generates most of the revenue for the state. 80% of the DSA (Distributive Schools Account) is funding put there from Clark County.
Clark County receives 50% in return. This is the antiquated Nevada Plan.
Also the south does not have access to mining proceeds which many rural communities can also tap for school funds.
I am not advocating a grab from other schools. I am advocating for restructuring that is fair to all students wherever they reside.
The south serves students who traditionally need more financial support to be successful.
CCSD [Clark County School District: Las Vegas] has huge numbers of children in poverty.
Our students cannot continue to endure class sizes of 40 plus.
We cannot continue to ignore early intervention so vital to future success.
We have to continue to fund and expand Victory and ZOOM schools.
CCSD was considering an ELL plan which is necessary. The cost would be $1 billion to fund at a level appropriate for our learners in Clark County.
We cannot continue to train educators who leave for greener pastures. We need committed and permanent educators to see a return in teacher development investment. We need to invest in teacher pipelines and retention of excellent and fully qualified professionals. We also need teachers who reflect the faces we see in our community. It is very expensive to endure teacher churn as skilled labor looks for a better deal.
Listen up both sides of the aisle . . .
Unfunded mandates that may be easily implemented in a tiny rural district, can cost multiple millions to implement in CCSD with 380,000 students and 36,000 educators.
That great idea a random legislator has – needs to have a price tag on it. Just one thing – can rob a classroom of supplies. A great idea – can mean my students do not have books. The pot is limited. The budget is already stretched thin. We have to prioritize and necessities need to come first.
We cannot continue to do more with less.
Unfunded mandates are killing public schools. Do not send that idea without cash.
Just don’t do it.
I’m looking at everyone here because I have seen it non-stop. Most returning law makers are guilty.
If we are running at a deficit of $300-$400 million, please know unfunded mandates will rob from another need.
If there is zero money. There is zero money. No money – no reform. No money – no new ideas. No money – no change. It is not that different from a budget at your house. It is not that we do not want things, we just cannot afford it right now.
Whipping teachers like we are going to row faster on a Viking ship – just leaves us too whipped to teach.
Unfunded mandates are usually implemented by teachers from our own pockets – we pull from our personal bank accounts, our families, and our time to implement that great idea. Many unfunded mandates are half implemented and just waste time and money because they are impossible. It is a burden.
Ideas cost money.
Listen to me.
I am without guile.
My hands are clean as I work to teach seven year olds to read.
These are my asks.
I have spent a lifetime educating children. I am from Nevada where we used to fund near the top and achieve results near the top too. I have watched my state’s educational success plummet as our per pupil spending has declined. That is a fact proven with real data.
Educating students costs.
Competition has not and will not improve Nevada’s system.
Tough love, fads and gimmicks are draining precious resources.
Teachers will fail if we do not have what we need to do the job.
Some things are more important than winning and losing a political game.
Please work together for kids this session in a well thought out way that makes progress.
You expect a lot from teachers.
Teachers need resources spent the right way to make progress.