Las Vegas educators rally for better school funding in Nevada

Thousands of educators, parents and students gather to rally to secure additional education funding in front of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Saturday morning, April, 27, 2019. (Jessica Terrones / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Thousands of educators, parents and students gather to rally to secure additional education funding in front of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Saturday morning, April, 27, 2019. (Jessica Terrones / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Derrick Chan, a 30-year-old PE teacher at Paradise Elementary School holds a sign during a rally to secure additional education funding in front of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Saturday morning, April, 27, 2019. Thousands of educators, parents and students attended the rally. (Jessica Terrones / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Imelda Suppe, a 56-year-old special education teacher at Helen Herr Elementary School, left, and her daughter, Dominique Meier, 31, hold signs during a rally to secure additional education funding in front of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Saturday, April, 27, 2019. Thousands of educators, parents and students attended the rally. (Jessica Terrones / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Several thousand teachers and supporters rallied in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, calling for action from legislators and expressing frustration and anger at the state’s inability to properly fund education — or even talk about it.

More than 4,000 people took part in the rally, according to Linda Jones, a political field coordinator for the Clark County Education Association, which organized the rally in downtown Las Vegas. Educators, parents and students wore red and held signs reading “Fund Our Schools Now!” while they chanted for change.

“Educators are here united as one to fight for a common goal,” said Derrick Chan, a 30-year-old physical education teacher at Paradise Elementary School. “That’s what it’s all about, fighting for this common goal to make sure everyone is getting everything they need.

“Considering that a lot of politicians get elected into office on the promise of helping with education and the fact that nothing has been done makes us feel like we can’t trust our politicians,” Chan said. “Nothing has happened.”

Cathy Carter, a 61-year-old fifth-grade teacher at Wendell P. Williams Elementary School, echoed his concerns. “A bill should be in place. We should have more funding. Where is the money we were promised?” she said.

Sierra Vista High School senior Mykel Broady also made his voice heard.

He said that he appreciates the school district but called for change to bring about improvements to Nevada schools.

“I’m here because it matters to everyone,” said Broady, who also spoke to the crowd at the rally. “We should not be last. Nevada should be proud to be first one day and I believe we will be.”

‘We have the money’

With just about five weeks until the end of the legislative session, legislators have yet to discuss a bill that would change Nevada’s 52-year-old funding formula. Yet fixing funding has been a critical topic for public education stakeholders, who have launched a Fund Our Future campaign.

Imelda Suppe, a 56-year-old special education teacher at Herr Elementary School, was holding back tears as she expressed her frustration with the state legislators. Suppe said she has seen and experienced poverty firsthand growing up in the Philippines and she knows Las Vegas has the money to make a change.

“We have the money, we are not broke. We are constantly building new tall buildings and fancy stadiums, so why can’t we get more funding for our schools?” she said.

Suppe was joined by her daughter, Dominique Meier, 31, whose second-grade daughter attends a Clark County school.

“I see kids struggling; classroom sizes are huge. I see what my mom and all of her colleagues go through. They aren’t getting the funding they need,” Meier said.

The rally organized by the CCEA followed a similar event called “Red for Ed” held by the National Education Association of Southern Nevada earlier this year.

Nevada consistently ranks low compared with other states in education funding. The latest Quality Counts report card gave the state an F in school finance, the same grade it earned in a 2018 Education Law Center report on the topic.

At risk of losing educators

Nevada’s population is starkly different and much more diverse than in 1967, when the funding formula was created, according to proponents of a new formula.

“The lack of adequate funding in Clark County School District is putting us at risk of losing highly qualified educators,” said Harold Nichols, a 34-year-old International Baccalaureate teacher at Spring Valley High School.

“Education is an expense and we need to start funding our schools now,” he added.

“They treat teachers and support staff like we don’t matter. We need more money for teachers and support staff and students,” Carter said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak this week announced that he would donate his salary to all of the state’s highest-poverty, Title I schools.

Yet while the education community welcomed that gesture, many have expressed that simply donating a one-time salary is not enough to fix the underlying funding issues in the Silver State.

“It’s a campaign promise that he’s kept, but Sisolak is very limited as a governor in terms of what he can do in terms of the budget, but at least he’s keeping up his end of the deal,” Nichols said.

“As nice of a gesture that it is, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to make a significant impact,” Chan said.

“It’s great but it’s not enough,” Carter said of Sisolak’s announcement, adding that she felt “weird” that legislatures have so much say over what goes on in the district, yet many of their students don’t attend CCSD schools. “They don’t have students here, so how much do they really care?”

Yet still, some educators are holding out hope for change. “We’re hoping that he will keep his promise and that it will make an impact,” Suppe said.

Meanwhile, Washoe County and Churchill County schools have projected a deficit for next school year, as reported by the Washoe County School District and the Nevada Appeal newspaper.

Education proponents have been calling for other measures — including funneling the 2009 Initiative Petition room tax back into a supplemental funding account for education, rather than using it to supplant existing funding.

Sisolak has also incorporated a 3 percent raise for employees in his proposed budget.

But the Clark County School District —which is at odds with the governor’s office over how much money it would receive — calculates that the extra money allotted the district still would not be enough to cover the proposed raise.

Contact Jessica Terrones at jterrones@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256. Follow @JessATerrones on Twitter. Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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