Las Vegas Sun

May 6, 2015

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Sun editorial:

For the children?

Kids Count survey shows how rhetoric has failed in Nevada

In public policy debates, people often invoke “the children” or “future generations” to push their points. Sometimes they’re sincere, sometimes not, but there is an underlying truth that what we do now will have profound effects on the generations to come.

As parents and grandparents, we are keenly aware of that, and although we hear people and politicians talk about the children and the future of Nevada, we rarely see the rhetoric turn into action.

We saw another jarring sign of the state’s failure to pave the way for future generations when the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count report. It surveys children’s well being, looking at education, economics, family and health. Nevada was ranked 48th in the nation, ahead of Mississippi and New Mexico.

As Paul Takahashi reported in the Sun, the good news of this is that Nevada improved in 11 of the 16 indicators surveyed.

“Improvement comes slowly,” said Rennae Daneshvary, the director of Nevada Kids Count. “We have seen some progress. There’s hope for Nevada. We can’t give up.”

Progress is good, and it should be celebrated. But there’s bad news, as well: The progress wasn’t monumental — Nevada’s overall ranking stayed the same — and it has been painfully slow. And besides, this is hardly the first time Nevada has ranked poorly in a survey like this. (You might remember the old mantra about Nevada being on the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of all the good lists. Sadly, it still holds true.) Consider some of the troubling details of the Kids Count report:

• Education: Nevada ranked at the bottom of the nation for graduation rate and preschool participation. Twenty-three percent of children live in a family where the head of the household doesn’t have a high school diploma, which is not a good sign for childhood achievement. Nationally, the average is 15 percent.

• Economics: Nevada ranked worst in the nation for “idle teens,” unemployed high school dropouts between 16 and 19 years old. Over the course of the recession, the state saw an 18 percent increase in the number of idle teens.

• Family: More than 144,000 children live in poverty, and nearly 1 in 10 children in Nevada live in a “high poverty” area. And, although there has been an improvement, Nevada has the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.

• Health: Roughly 1 in 6 children in Nevada lacks health care, according to the Kids Count survey, and that’s down from 1 in 5 children in 2008.

Although it may be improving somewhat, the overall picture for Nevada’s children from the report is still bleak. Part of that is economic; Nevada is still struggling from the effects of the recession, and that affects children. But the economy can’t be blamed for everything. The underlying issues are embedded in decisions made by Nevadans — not just the politicians but also the voters who haven’t invested in education and social services.

In recent decades, a majority of politicians haven’t risked in taking bold steps. And voters largely haven’t supported politicians who are willing to take those risks, nor have voters rallied behind measures to support better schools and services.

The result of Nevadans’ failure to act hasn’t exactly affected the adults who make those decisions. However, it is not hyperbole to say the children are the ones who suffer.

To say that’s a shame wouldn’t capture the reality. It’s a tragedy.

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  1. Parents need to tune in instead of just rubber stamp everything "for the children." K-12 has been benefiting from this hype for years and years. We dump literally $Billions EACH YEAR into K-12 and get negative results. More and more money has NOT helped once. Perhaps if we turn the tables and insist K-12 produce good results on less and less money with more and more accountability INSTEAD of lip service to parents.

  2. Nevada currently funds education at 45% of the funding levels education finance experts estimate is needed in order to provide an "adequate" education system. 45%, not 100%, not 150%, just 45%. I dare that you go to your mechanic and demand that he fix your car with 45% of the tools he needs and don't stand too close or you're likely to get beaned with a wrench.
    What was Roberta Anderson ignorantly babbling on about again?

  3. To the Sun: Thank you for publishing this editorial.

    To Roslenda (Public enemy #1 of public ed): I beg to differ. Immigration status aside, when we were spending money to provide specialized instruction for our ELL students, we saw tremendous progress in these students' ability to do well in school. When our ELL programs went unfunded and ceased to exist, ELL students' test scores flattened and plunged, and their ability to function with success in the regular classroom was delayed. We've also been forced to end many electives classes in our secondary schools as a result of budget cuts, and these classes were often a driving force in keeping students interested in attending school. Your misguided, anti-public education views defy reality in so many ways. And no, I don't expect you to change your views. That rarely happens to persons with a closed mind.

  4. The single most neglected factor in this conversation is MENTAL HEALTH. No human being can function optimally when their mind is NOT there! Yet we demand this of our school children (and ourselves) each and every day.

    Much has been done to address low achievement and social anomaly. Virtually NOTHING has been done to addressing the hemorraghing that goes on before our very eyes when a child is emotionally hurting. The problem is and has been, children (and their families) lacking mental health care access. School counselors can only provide "referrals" and very seldom are these followed through, due to no insurance, no funds, no transportation.....

    Clearly, we need to address the major cause of low academic achievement and social problems (bullying is a current focus in schools). Allocate resources so that any and all children who need mental health services can get it on the school site! That will be one of the best "returns on investment" in history!

    Blessings and Peace,

  5. Education will NEVER improve because the people holding the power to initiate improvements will NOT allow it. They only allow pretend improvements enough to keep the 'natives' from being antsy.

    To take the heat off of them, they blame teachers and their unions - the very same people who are trying to save it from cannibalization.

    We have been teaching math, science, and language arts since the institution of education began.

    We have been successful with children who have stable home life, who have parents who care, who are ready and want to learn.

    We have been unsuccessful with children with mental, social, and emotional deficiencies. Yet, they expect us to perform miracles, and we try, every day.

    For decades, we have been asking parents, society, and the government for help because these social ills that come with modern culture and hinder learning are beyond the powerless teachers capabilities. Yet, all we get are blame, insults, and a kick in the gut.

    We are expected to produce excellent results amidst all these challenges while at the same time we have to defend ourselves and the profession they are trying insidiously to destroy.

    Something is terribly wrong and what is worst, the ignoramus join in with wrecking balls.

    Is anyone surprised we are at the bottom of the heap?