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District must show funds improved students' performance

Kenny Belknap
Kenny Belknap

Since the passage of the pupil-centered funding formula by the Nevada Legislature in the 2019 session, the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) has advocated fully funding this system. This is now within reach with Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposal of $2 billion in additional funding for the biennium. This historic investment is a rare opportunity to make meaningful changes in Nevada’s education system.

But is the leadership of the Clark County School District capable of making changes? CCSD leadership is the first to tell us all they need more funding to help improve education outcomes in our district.

In recent years, CCSD has gotten a large investment from spending bills passed by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic. CCSD received upwards of a billion dollars in COVID relief money and has used a portion of that money to offer a summer school program to address learning loss.

This sounds great until you realize they are still sitting on over half a billion dollars in COVID relief money with an additional $205 million dollars sitting in school carryover funds. All the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased learning loss for students. Twenty-two percent of CCSD middle schoolers are math proficient and less than 42 percent of them are proficient in reading and writing. Why is there no plan by CCSD leadership to use unspent funds to improve student outcomes?

The Clark County Education Association has concerns about CCSD leadership and the current path our district is on. This is why we are advocating for accountability and transparency from the state. Our legislative agenda was developed by our membership with four primary goals: to increase student achievement, increase instructional time, prioritize teacher recruitment and retention, and make schools safer for our students and educators.

Funding alone isn’t going to end the educator shortage across the state and nation. It is projected that in the next 10 years, Clark County will need 14,000 educators, and statewide 19,000 will be needed. We have a crisis. That is why we have been working with Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) on a bill to build a pipeline to grow our own educators in Nevada.

Learning can only take place in an environment that promotes it. That is why we’re working with and supporting Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno) and her bill, AB285, to reform the restorative justice law passed in 2019.

In the presentation of her bill, Assemblywoman Taylor detailed some of the horrific things that have been happening inside classrooms. There were more than 8,300 violent incidents in the 2021-2022 school year. When violence like this is rampant in our schools, student attendance drops, and instructional time is lost to address these incidents. This only furthers the learning loss students already were experiencing.

CCEA is leading on these fronts to bring about real change to Nevada’s education system. That change can only be made by strategically using the funds the state is poised to pass and pairing them with common sense policy to build a strong education delivery system statewide.

Legislative leadership and Gov. Lombardo are showing real commitment to getting our education system moving in the right direction in Nevada. They are doing their part by funding the system. Now it’s up to CCSD leadership to put the funding to good use.

There must be accountability measures tied to this new money. CCSD cannot be left to spend this money however it sees fit. History has shown us what the district does when they do have additional funding: leave millions sitting in bank accounts, give central office staff raises, and continue to have no real plan to address students’ learning loss or their needs.

CCSD leadership has squandered opportunities to make optimal use of every last cent received to improve student outcomes. That’s why we are calling on CCSD leadership for a plan, transparency and accountability to ensure this once-in-a-lifetime investment by Gov. Lombardo is put to good use.

CCSD leadership should be given one year to show growth in student outcomes. If they cannot move the needle with more money than CCSD has ever before had access to, then the state must step in.

Kenny Belknap teaches U.S. government and human geography at Liberty High School in Henderson and is the treasurer for the Clark County Education Association. 


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