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Listen to educators

Selena La Rue Hatch
Selena La Rue Hatch
Opinion
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For the past year, educators in this state have watched debates play out about reopening plans, pandemic safety measures, school budgets, and myriad other issues directly affecting students and educators. Sadly, we’ve had to watch from the sidelines as these critical decisions are debated — largely by individuals without education experience and without a working knowledge of what is actually happening in our schools today. Rarely are we invited to the table and even when we have tried to raise our collective voices, we have too often been ignored and shut out of the process. This must stop. If we ever hope to fix our hopelessly broken system of education in Nevada, we need to start listening to the people with boots on the ground.

As a Nevada teacher and a proud member of the Washoe Education Association and Nevada State Education Association, I am imploring you to listen to educators. Listen to our struggles, our concerns, and most of all, our proposals for solving the problems facing our schools.

I am one teacher, but I hope in this column to be able to give voice to the thousands of educators who work tirelessly every single day to ensure the children of our community can learn, grow, and flourish, even in these uncertain times. Please, let my experience shed some light on our schools and help you to understand why we must chart a new path forward.

Whether a teacher, education support professional, or other licensed professional, Nevada educators are some of the most hardworking, dedicated, hardy people you will meet. Even prior to 2020, being an educator in Nevada was no easy task. With some of the lowest education funding in the nation, teaching in Nevada has meant overcrowded classrooms, limited resources, and hours of unpaid labor to make it all work. And yet, educators have been willing to make these sacrifices, and so many more, because we believe in the work we are doing for our kids.

Unfortunately, COVID has exacerbated and accelerated the crisis facing Nevada schools. This year, schools faced tremendous political pressure to reopen, but all resources with which to do so were virtually eliminated during the special session. Once again, educators were asked to do more with less. But this time the “more” included safeguarding the mental health, learning, and very lives of our students. The less entailed less money, less time, less security. 

Educators have been asked to sacrifice our time, our health, and even our lives to help our communities survive this crisis. And we have proudly done so! But there is a limit to what any individual can give. A limit to the hours they have in a day, a limit to what they can sacrifice to the community, and a limit to the abuse they can take before even the strongest individuals break.  We are hitting that limit now. If something is not changed, this state will face an educator shortage from which we may never recover.

Thus far, the burden of saving our state has fallen on educators, health care professionals, public servants, and essential workers. We have stepped up to do our part. Now is the time for others to share in this sacrifice. Throughout this economic crisis mining corporations have made record profits and have shared next to none of those profits with the state that made them possible. Now is the time for them to pitch in to help our community weather this storm, and I am hopeful that our legislators will agree. I am eager to see the passage of the mining revenue bill (AJR1) this session. The income generated from this bill could help restore the incredible damage done to our Nevada schools. It would mean that we could reopen our schools safely and invest in critical programs to address educational equity and learning loss. This one bill will not be enough to fully fix the chronic underfunding of Nevada education. But we cannot start the process of rebuilding without it. We must see new revenue in our state, and I can think of no better place to start than this bill. 

To ensure new revenue is a key component of our budget solution, NSEA and many partner organizations will be organizing to demand just that. If this message speaks to you, if you have or know children in a Nevada school, or if you just want to live in a state with a well-educated citizenry, please join us in this call. You can write to your legislator, call in for public comment, or join us at our Red for Ed rallies in Las Vegas and Carson City on Feb. 15 at noon. We cannot continue to accept a status quo in which our children’s future is left to the mercy of budget cuts while there is a viable means to fully funding education in Nevada.

Our Legislature faces a choice: Will it continue to chip away at the foundation of our communities by pursuing the same failed, tired policies of austerity? Or can it finally make the just decision to shore up our crumbling foundations by investing in our schools and communities? Will they finally ask those with the most to share in the sacrifices of those with the least, or will they continue to balance our budget on the backs of the most vulnerable? 

It seems like a simple choice to me and thousands of other educators across the state. Listen to educators. Join the movement. Help us fix our broken education system.

Selena La Rue Hatch is a Nationally Board Certified social studies teacher in the Washoe County School District and proud member of the Washoe Education Association and Nevada State Education Association. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the WEA, and co-chairs the NSEA Grassroots Taskforce.

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