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One Governor’s Take On the State and Cost of Education

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Okay, so maybe not everyone sits around reviewing State of the State addresses to see what governors have to say about education, but if you’re going to say “another way” is better, you’d best know what it’s better than. (Sorry, I don’t have time to get that preposition away from the end of the sentence.)

Nevada’s Governor Gibbons speech caught my attention when he stated, “Our k-12 schools and the Nevada System of Higher Education make up 54% of all General Fund spending.” Holy mackerel. Double holy mackerel when you (coming up!) learn about the condition of the schools.

Man giving speech

The cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to public education has had its time and proven that it doesn’t work anymore.

I don’t live in Nevada, and I don’t know if Governor Gibbons is a good guy, bad guy, “I’m going to say what the people want to hear” guy, and it doesn’t have anything to do with his wife accusing him of affairs. I just figure that much like the state in which I do live (FL, and see, I can not end a sentence with a preposition), Nevada is in a world of hurt because of the real estate bubble burst, so perhaps he and my own governor will actually have to soon follow up on tough talk about education spending.

In the interest of thinking about the condition of your own state’s education system, spending on it, and its value (or lack thereof) to your family, I hope this snippet from Governor Gibbons gives you something on which to chew. (smile) By the way, all of the underlining and caps for emphasis are the governor’s, not mine.

EXCERPT OF GOVERNOR GIBBONS STATE OF THE STATE MESSAGE

A core function of Nevada state government is education.  Our K-12 schools and the Nevada System of Higher Education make up 54% of all General Fund spending.  But we can’t solve a $1 billion hole in a $6 billion budget if half of that budget is off the table.

In 2004 I co-authored the Education First Initiative, to require legislators to fund education first and to prevent them from holding education hostage in budget negotiations.  As a graduate of Nevada public schools, I am firmly committed to improving K-12 education in Nevada.  Our education system is the intellectual infrastructure for Nevada’s future.   Improvement will require new ideas and fresh resolve.  It’s time to stop whining that education in Nevada doesn’t work because of a lack of funding.  We need to quit throwing money at programs that haven’t worked and don’t work for our children.

In early January I unveiled the Gibbons Education Reform plan.  My plan calls for parents, teachers and communities to be responsible for their local schools and in control of their children’s education.  Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. and Carson City, whose ideas of education reform start and end with writing a blank check, have no business dictating how your child is educated.  We need to empower local school boards and parents to make decisions which are right for their children so they can decide how their kids are educated.  Nevada taxpayers spend billions of dollars on education.  It’s time to let local school boards, teachers, and parents have a voice in how that money is spent.

The cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to public education has had its time and proven that it doesn’t work anymore. What works in Las Vegas, may not work in Winnemucca or Tonopah.  A good idea in Elko may not make any sense in Sparks or Mesquite.

Despite 20 years of state imposed student-teacher ratios in first, second and third grade,  student achievement in Nevada has not improved.  The Nevada Department of Education recently announced 142 of the 613 public schools in Nevada qualify as the “worst” schools in the nation.  That means 23 percent of our public schools are failing.

I WILL NOT accept that.  If 142 of our schools are not making the grade, what we are doing doesn’t work. Throwing more money at this system won’t change anything.   Continuing to allow unions to dictate Nevada’s education policy doesn’t work.  We need true reform.  We need change.  We need to rethink how we deliver public education in Nevada.  We need to make better use of existing resources. We need to empower local school boards to use their money to deliver the right programs to our kids to achieve the best results.  Programs like class size reduction and full-day kindergarten are based on good intentions, but programs cannot be judged on their intentions.  They must be judged on their results.

Under my Education Reform plan, these programs will not be eliminated, only the mandate from Carson City will.  If a local school board decides a program works for their kids, they can do it.  And they will have the flexibility to do it, not because the government tells them, but because they decide it is best for their students.

For the past 25 years, Nevada schools struggled with increasing enrollment.  Fundamental issues like having classrooms for students and scrambling to get desks and textbooks became the issues of the day.  In the current school year, student population has dropped.  We now have a golden opportunity to catch our breath and rethink how we can best provide education to our children.  I request the Nevada Legislature give my Education Reform plan a fair hearing in the upcoming Special Session.

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3 Responses to “One Governor’s Take On the State and Cost of Education”

  1. Mary says:

    It does not surprise me. According to my county tax statement the cost to run the county government, keep the roads maintained, something for conservation, run the fire department, the library, control those pesky mosquitoes and provide emergency services COMBINED is less than the schools get. Something sure appears to be out of whack.

  2. Beverley says:

    The public school system is a HUGE employer. That's where all the money goes, on salaries.

    Here in Australia our government has decided to catch up on maintenance and updating schools, both public and private, but not because they've been neglected for forty years, but as an economic measure to keep Australia out of recession (it is working). So it's not really true that all the money goes on salaries as a huge amount is going on infrastructure. But that won't last and in a couple of years the bulk will be spent on salaries again.

    I still notice that very little gets spent on running the schools or resourcing the schools, and nothing at all on properly evaluating reforms (when they don't work they get buried fairly quickly by the politicians and bureaucrats).

    The type of reform the Governor is spouting is being put into practice in some public schools in Western Australia – these public schools will be known as Independent Schools. It will be interesting to see if they achieve better results for their students in the long run.

  3. Thanks a bunch, ladies…"out of whack"…what else could it be called?

    Beverley, I hope you'll keep us posted from time to time as to how that "public schools to be known as Independent Schools" thing unfolds, and how it's received by parents. G'day, ladies!

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