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Teachers take fight over education funding to streets


Leila Navidi

Andrew Piotrowski, 9, from left, Lincoln Aquino, 9, and Alexis Almeido, 11, all students at Glen Taylor Elementary School, rally to encourage the governor and Legislature to support education at Glen Taylor Elementary School in Henderson Wednesday, April 13, 2011.

Education Rally at Glen Taylor

Andrew Piotrowski, 9, from left, Lincoln Aquino, 9, and Alexis Almeido, 11, all students at Glen Taylor Elementary School, rally to encourage the governor and Legislature to support education at Glen Taylor Elementary School in Henderson Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Education rally

KSNV coverage of school rally for education, April 13, 2011.

Glen Taylor Elementary

Parents, students and teachers have been holding rallies at Las Vegas-area schools this week as the Legislature considers education funding.

“We heard that the Legislature thinks that we and the parents don’t care because they haven’t heard from us,” said Bob Miller Middle School teacher Jen Stellavato. “So we’re showing them that we care.”

Teachers from Miller are now working just their basic contract hours — canceling all after-school clubs and activities, which the teachers ran on their own time — so they could “educate the public,” teacher Melanie Teemant said.

The budget Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed would slash K-12 education funding by about $625 million.

In Clark County, the school board approved a tentative budget that includes cuts of more than $407 million. It would eliminate 2,500 staff positions and includes pay cuts and benefit concessions equaling an 8 percent reduction.

At Bob Miller Middle School, teachers began standing on street corners around the school before and after classes with signs.

They have been handing out fliers to parents with contact information for the governor, members of the Senate Finance Committee, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and representatives for the school’s area.

Then they started taking their rally on the road, alternating days at the middle school’s three feeder elementary schools.

On Wednesday afternoon, they were at Glen Taylor Elementary in Henderson, joined by about 50 parents, teachers and students from that school.

“We are here for our teachers or anyone who’s losing their job or getting their pay check cut,” said Colleen Fernandez, who has a fifth- and third-grader at the school. “We’re losing some great teachers because our system is so messed up.”

The elementary school children seemed to have fun holding signs and chanting, “Save our school” and “Save my teacher.” They broke into wild yells when the wind carried a poster out of a child’s hands and into traffic.

Cherrie Schell said she thinks the Legislature should remember that each member there was once in elementary school, too.

“I wish the Legislature would do the education budget first and make sure we have proper funding for our kids,” she said, adding that raising taxes to funds schools was OK with her.

Some parents “don’t realize how drastic the proposed cuts are,” said Julie Buck, who has been teaching third grade at Taylor for eight years.

Buck said the school averaged 20 students in each third grade class last year and is up to 22 this year. Next year, she expects to have 26 or 27 in her small classroom.

“The public needs to be aware how drastic these cuts are going to be,” she said. “Raising class sizes drastically decreases the effectiveness of the teacher.”

Shelly Soule, a fourth-grade teacher, said she, too, is worried about class sizes. “You’ll just have kids who are lost in the shuffle,” said Soule, who also expressed concern about pay cuts.

“After getting two master’s and a bachelor’s, it’d be nice to get paid for my education like other jobs are,” she said.

Because her husband is also a teacher, the cuts will hit her family doubly hard. “So, we’re concerned about the paycheck, because that impacts us. But we’re more worried about the kids,” the 12-year teaching veteran said.

Glen Owen, who works at another school but came to support his wife, a teacher at Taylor, said it’s not just teachers who are under fire.

As an education computer strategist, he works with students and teachers to use technology at two schools. If his position is eliminated, which is a possibility, there will be no one left to fill that role.

“They have hundreds of millions of dollars in technology that will literally be down the drain because nobody will be able to support it,” he said. Some teachers might know how to use the technology, but with larger classes, they won’t have time to implement it, he said.

“What they’ve proposed is irresponsible. It doesn’t represent common sense in our politicians,” he said. “I wonder if they understand the cause and effect of what these cuts do.”

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  1. When it is all said and done, the State of Nevada is run by the gaming/resort, and mining industries, and unless THEY are taxed in a meaningful way, organizations and people will lash out at public servants, demanding they work for virtually free, rather than LAWMAKERS make the gaming/resort and mining industries accountable for the inhumane exploitation of human beings/citizens of Nevada.

    So VOTERS, what will it be? Will allow these unsuccessful LAWMAKERS WHO HAVE KICKED THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD FOR DECADES, continue to do business as usual here in Nevada?

  2. The message is clear: we the people have had enough of the obscene greed of politicians who will sell out our schools and our childrens' futures for a few pennies more for the selfish indulgences of the rich. What a powerful lesson for our kids to learn, that to raise their voices in outrage and protest can influence policy. Let's hope this works, that teachers and students and then their parents everywhere keep taking to the streets until this state's "no new taxes" stupidity finally changes.

    Let's all get out to the streets and the barricades to shout and keep shouting: Tax the rich!

  3. The In Idaho, one of the new education bills is substituting a percentage of it's teachers with laptops...the percentage isn't a settled number yet. From the 9th grade on, the Governor and State Supr of Schools have decided that watching class material on laptop screens is more effective then having a teacher in the class.

    The number of students in one online class can be increased without limit. With cameras in the laptops, they can tell who is paying attention and who isn't...that's already been attempted elsewhere.

  4. This could be a reason why housing prices are falling again. People aren't going to work part time jobs for 5 yaars until the "economy" recovers. They are walking away from their homes and moving out.

    They know all the difference between "shared sacrifice" and "shared gain" - only one is real. A greater Exodus is in the pipelines when the education system craters.

  5. Speak for yourself, Douglas. I see the teachers as "greedy" and uncaring about the majority of Nevadans. Especially the 140,000 who have lost their jobs completely. Then there are the 10s of 1,000s who have had their hours and paychecks reduced. Using children to make their unseemly point is another indication of how public schools have become bastions of indoctrination rather than of education. A pox on the "greedy" teachers and their "greedy" union, as well!

  6. Fink has an appropriate name for a teacher basher. How can any professional making 35K-55K (max) per year be called "greedy"? What planet is this Fink living on? Obviously the GOP planet, on which only quasi-criminal banker CEOS and phony mortgage salesman who make millions really count. And this Fink blames teachers for tens of thousands of Nevadans who have lost their jobs!

    What stupid logic, really, when education for unemployed workers is the key to retraining and finding new employment. But that's the trouble with Nevada: too many mud-rock ignorant idiots who sit back believing the lies on Fox News.

  7. We should be focusing on education reform not on education spending:

  8. r5332e,

    Nothing cracks me up more than grammar errors in a comment about education. Thanks for the laughs bud.

  9. There is need for reform in three major areas: taxes, school district administrations, and classroom performance evaluation. There are obviously more areas to be looked at, but I consider these to be the root cause of the problems we see.

    The politicians do not have a moral leg to stand on so long as they refuse to address the lack of equitable taxes on Nevada citizens and enterprises (i.e. mining.) It is one thing to say no new taxes to support non-essentials, but education is a primary need for society and should always be funded at an efficient, effective level.

    That brings up my next two areas.

    CCSD is the fith largest school district in the country if I recall correctly. While there are certain economies of scale to be realized in buying power and centralized management in some operations, there is also bound to be increased inefficiency in others due to a much broader communications net. I have little doubt that a re-organization of CCSD could result in significant savings.

    Classroom performance is almost impossible to measure now. Serious effort must be put into identifying an equitable way to measure this. Once this is done, real reform can be made to how teachers and administrators are retained and rewarded.

  10. The problem with all the folks yelling about "greedy" teachers is that the simply aren't aware of the facts:

    - Teachers in Nevada are not allowed by law to contribute to Social Security - so their pension is all they have when they retire.
    - Starting teacher's salaries are about $24,000/year - darn close to poverty level.

    Where the county ought to start cutting is at the top - all those fat-cat do-nothing administrators and principals, all of who make over $100,000 a year and never see the inside of a classroom. But it's the good-old-boy system, and no one at the top is going to recommend their $100,000+/year friends get laid off or even get a pay cut - instead they pick on the teachers at the bottom of the ladder, while giving every single administrator in the district a $500 iPad. Money well spent ... NOT!

    What kind of sense does it make to lay off those who can least afford to lose their lobs instead of trimming the huge amounts of fat on the top rungs of the ladder?

  11. Mr. Carp,

    Considering Social Security averages a 2 percent annual rate of return teachers are lucky not to be participating.

    Next, a teacher's starting salary here is $35,000 - well above the poverty level

    I agree, it makes little sense to fire the cheaper young teachers when there are lots of highly paid administrators. I also note there are highly paid teachers who probably shouldn't be in the business.