By John Vellardita
Nevada made progress on funding our public schools in 2015. But there is a serious inequity that has not yet been addressed. Today 150,000 kids in Clark County are left out of the additional categorical funding (Zoom, Victory). That creates two classes of students: those fortunate to be in a school that gets more funds and those who are in a school left behind. This inequity cannot continue.
The time is now to transition from categorical funding to equitable funding for all Clark County students.
The Governor proposes additional education funds, but he doesn’t propose addressing this inequity. Those additional funds should be a step toward a weighted funding formula to ensure that adequate money follows students who need it the most. Nevada needs a ‘Universal Weight’ that spends new money on students at risk regardless of what school or zip code students are in.
Nevada’s four legislative leaders who can make this happen.
Senate Majority Leader Ford has a proven track record as a facilitator capable of bringing everyone into the conversation. He is a visionary with a progressive agenda for Nevada. Nevada’s children want to reach the middle class; not a minimum wage job. Education is their pathway. Social justice advances when no kids are left behind. Accomplishment comes from consensus not forcing a veto.
Assembly Speaker Frierson is an implementer who can find the path to get things done. He is driven by the need to serve the public good. His leadership builds bridges, finds solutions, and presents our children with a pathway to live the American Dream. He cannot let the agenda of ideologues get in the way of accomplishment. Big picture must trump individual agendas.
Senate Minority Leader Roberson has been the consummate leader on education funding. What many don’t want to acknowledge is that Senator Roberson is driven by his personal desire to improve public education. Roberson’s record of accomplishment for education speaks for itself. He’s done too much to walk away from it now. Turning back the clock to 2011 will not help kids.
Assembly Minority Leader Anderson was the most underrated leader in the 2015 legislative session. He built consensus on education funding while fending off coup attempts by extremists in his own party. His 2015 leadership had unintended consequences; good colleagues fell to the right wing of his party in 2016. Pragmatism makes good policy. Balance is needed on the controversial issues like school choice. Anderson can deliver on both.
These four leaders believe in public education. However, their differences are significant. Unless they put those difference aside Nevada won’t continue to make progress for children this Session.
Herein, lies the role of the Closer - the Governor. Nevadans want accomplishment not gridlock and Governor Sandoval has proven he can get things done. He has led Nevada out of its worst recession in decades; no small feat given the two dimensional economy of this State. His vision embraced change. He was bold and asked the business community to tax themselves for the greater good- public education. In any other state in this country that agenda would be blue not red.
However, this Session will be more challenging. The Governor’s party does not control the legislature. This is his last waltz. A termed-out Governor has freedom; a rare luxury in politics. Finding a pathway around controversy and disagreement will not be easy. In 2015 he built consensus and made history. But the job for Nevada’s public education isn’t done. The Governor has proposed more funds for public education, but equitable distribution of that funding must be addressed, and it must happen in this Session. We need more resources for education but spent in the right way. We need a Universal Weight for at risk kids so every child gets the additional resources they need to learn.