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May 6, 2015

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Education advocates threaten lawsuit over funding public schools


Leila Navidi

Math teacher Mikel Boland sets up his classroom at Western High School in Las Vegas Friday, August 19, 2011.

Nevada's persistently poor public school funding may be putting the state at risk for a lawsuit.

At least that's what a host of education advocates in Las Vegas argue.

Advocates, upset with the incremental process of the Legislature when it comes to funding education adequately, plan to meet today to discuss a strategy in pursuing litigation against the state.

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, speaks during a Hispanics in Politics breakfast meeting at Dona Maria Mexican restaurant October 7, 2009. STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN.

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, speaks during a Hispanics in Politics breakfast meeting at Dona Maria Mexican restaurant October 7, 2009. STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN.

They plan to meet with the ACLU of Nevada and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to discuss "what can and should be done," said Fernando Romero, parent of two children in the Clark County School District and president of Hispanics in Politics.

"I'm hoping to get information as to what our options are," he said. "We've been waiting for good things to happen, and good things are not happening, so we need to take more assertive measures."

The potential case centers around the state's poor graduation rates, its consistently low level of funding for English-language learners and inequities in educational outcomes for minority students.

ACLU representatives wouldn't discuss whether a lawsuit is imminent.

"The only thing I can confirm right now is that we're looking into this," said Tod Story, interim executive director of the ACLU of Nevada.

The threat of a lawsuit over education inadequacy isn't new, with advocates bringing up the threat about every two years and whole legal papers exploring the issue.

But Story said the situation has only deteriorated, pointing to the fact the state provides no funding in its formula for ELL students. He argued that has created new impetus to seek court intervention.

"What makes it potentially different this time around?" he said. "That'd be the place to start. You cannot continue providing zero dollars."

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed spending $29 million in ELL funding in his budget for the next two years. Democratic leaders have called for more, but have yet to propose a way for obtaining the revenue.

Organizers of the potential lawsuit say their hopes are dimming for legislative and executive-level action to dramatically increase education funding.

Nevada ranks third in states that have the most English-language learners, but Nevada's support for those students pales in comparison to the support afforded other ELL students around the country, according to a UNLV Lincy Institute study published earlier this year.

For example, Broward County in Florida provides $121 million in ELL funding for its 25,112 students, or $4,837 per student. In Clark County, $6.7 million in federal money is directed toward ELL programs for 55,818 students -- an average of $119 per student.

So the group is turning its attention to the state's judicial branch in hopes that the courts will declare the state's support for education inadequate under the state constitution and mandate the Legislature to adequately fund education in Nevada.

It's a tactic that advocates in other states have adopted. The ACLU of Southern California is suing California in what it alleges are inadequacies in the way that state funds its ELL system. Judges in Colorado recently ruled in favor of a group of advocates, saying that "the state's school finance system is unconstitutional because it is inadequate and not rationally related to the constitutional mandate of a thorough and uniform system of free public education," according to that state's attorney general's office.

Colorado has appealed that ruling.

In Nevada, both Sandoval, a Republican, and leaders in the Democratically controlled Senate and Assembly say that they're prioritizing more money for education programs. Sandoval has already earmarked additional new money the state received for full-day kindergarten and English-language learner programs.

Senator Moises Denis of the 77th (2013) Nevada Senatorial District.

Senator Moises Denis of the 77th (2013) Nevada Senatorial District.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has been perhaps the most outspoken champion for more money to pay for ELL funding in this state.

He has vowed that he's not heading home from the Legislature without getting more money for education.

"If we don't do more for ELL, then definitely they have a really good case to sue the state for ELL funding," he said.

Following the recession years in which the state slashed education by hundreds of millions of dollars, the state is in a position to now add money back to its education system.

"Education has long been a priority for the governor and in his balanced budget, his commitment to K-12 education has increased spending, including an additional $160 million general fund investment, with a total new commitment to English-language learners and all-day (kindergarten) of nearly $60 million," said Mary-Sarah Kinner, spokeswoman for Sandoval. "What's more, because the economy is growing and local revenues are up, overall spending on K-12 education is up over $400 million from last biennium."

A 2006 study of Nevada's education system noted that adequate funding for Nevada's education system would be $4.46 billion in base funding for the next two years. The governor's executive budget includes about $3.8 billion in base funding.

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  1. Simple, now that we aren't sending the "dumped" out of state, bus kids to Florida. I can't believe this discussion. I want to know why teachers even say a thing, why they are not the "factory worker" turning out a good product, letting their administration do the dirty talk. God knows, we have enough administrators..what are they doing? Why will a teacher step up and say "we need more money", but not say, "a kid is not prepared by the time he/she reaches my classroom..why?" Yes, good teachers will say it is money, but not say the teacher before them or in the classroom next to them is a bad teacher. We always sight the bad districts in this State, not the good districts in this state..and guess what people, we have some good districts..strong grad rates and performance. Let us just take a long look in the mirror..

  2. It's the "usual suspects" whining about public school funding and pretending to care about the results. If they actually gave a damn, they'd fight for "choice" in education as hard as they fight for "choice" in executing the unborn. The public school system throughout the United States of America is a disgrace and in shambles. The top priority, it seems, is to glom on to more and more tax dollars so teachers can make more, so there are more administrators pushing pencils and so the unions can grow their membership and siphon off money to bribe "progressive" creeps running for office. As an aside, foreigners emigrating to the USA used to have to learn English on their own. They also had to provide for themselves. No welfare, food stamps, Section 8 housing, etc. The Boston terrorists and their scumbag parents are a prime example of just how nuts the "welfare" system has become. Do U.S. taxpayers reaally have to support parasites such as them?

  3. This is why Las Vegas will never be looked at as a good place to move your family. No jobs (outside of casino jobs), the worst schools and real estate market in the nation, high crime rates. Anyone that was not able to leave here after the recession is planning to get out of here as soon as they can. Las Vegas is a joke!

  4. Funding is already EXCESSIVE. Put teachers on full time, year round or CUT COMPENSATION. Ridiculous that they make up to $96K per year with perqs for about 2/3 of a year of work--184 days, 7 hour days. That would be reasonable compensation IF they were full time AND IF they provided adequate education. I'm not saying it's all the teachers fault but get real--much of it is. The U.S. spends more on K-12 than ANYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET yet we get miserable results. American / Nevada K-12 generates more-than-enough unskilled dropouts yet they violently advocate importing illegal students so they can further Ponzi K-12 in CCSD.

  5. Everyone other than government employees have averaged a 10% pay cut. The long-term unemployed have taken a 100% pay cut. And teachers are again crying for raises and less "work". Can anyone DO THE MATH: CCSD has roughly 100K illegal students (60K in ELL and about 60K passed thru ELL plus kids who invaded young enough to know English) which our taxes provide: housing, food, utilities, child care, vaccines, health care, clothing, cell phones, entertainment.... without a parallel uptick in economic productivity. Of course there isn't enough money or revenue to go around. AND of course there is NO MORE DISCRETIONARY INCOME left for working Americans to pony up to pay for failure to ENFORCE OUR LAWS. Let their families stay together in Mexico. Otherwise, get used to a REDUCED STANDARD OF LIVING, reduced compensation, fewer jobs (7 million illegals have stolen jobs from citizens.)

  6. As I emailed directly to El Lobo, it is NOT that teachers don't deserve a living wage. It is that we all must accept a LOWER STANDARD OF LIVING to pay for 15-20 million illegals including the 7 million who have stolen jobs from American citizens. K-12 produces enough "working class" drop outs right here. We don't need to import any. The economy is no longer a "free economy" because our welfare systems, government and non-profits, encourage more of the same. When a teen mom is "able" to have more kids because they can collect more money..... and WITHOUT PRODUCTIVE work, production, economic benefits all of the above DRAIN OUR ECONOMY TO A STANDSTILL. Therefore, teachers (and the rest of us) need to REALIZE that we must do more with less, financially and otherwise. Raising taxes is NOT the answer. As is under current tax levels, working adults, families, singles are hard pressed to have a reasonable standard of living: to own a home, keep a vehicle running, buy business/work clothing, raise a child or two, save an emergency fund, save for retirement. So instead of sending a child to college, we pay more taxes for foreign wars that do little to nothing to negative unintended consequences to our defense. We just don't have disposable / discretionary income to even pay down the national debt let alone pay for more wars. We don't have the economic productivity to raise state and local budgets be pay for ESSENTIAL government services such as mental health care for the dangerously ill. We just cannot keep dumping every dollar into (higher and lower) education pretending we're doing the right thing. There are not enough rich people to pay the taxes for all the "essentials." Businesses do NOT pay taxes--their customers do--we do. You think a mining tax won't shrink the industry in Nevada? You think the remaining mining won't pay (employees) less well because they pay more tax? You think the price of copper, gold, silver...won't go up and that the price of ALL CONSUMER GOODS won't go up? Any and all taxes will LOWER OUR STANDARD OF LIVING.

  7. El lobo: Sun articles state explicitly that CCSD teachers average about $74K in comp and top out at $96K with perqs. There is no math involved. Why are you getting huffy with me? manfromuncle realizes teachers, firefighters, cops.....gotta chip in for their retirements or PERS will be phased out.

  8. mtmfx: Notice the coincidence in casino jobs and more illegals? Notice the culinary union advocating endless invasion? They can pay "minimum" while our government programs (the rest of us) pay for food, housing, health care, child care, clothing....for illegals and everyone else working in the kitchens. We have 20 million CITIZENS who can't find full employment, can't find minimum-wage jobs yet teachers and casino employers want more invaders. They're hyping that there will be NO WELFARE for illegals--but the illegals are already getting welfare EBT SNAP, housing, health care....and you think O.'s agency directors will follow the law or just decide it's not the "right thing to do?"

  9. Mr. Fink: 6:37. Amen. How revolting that American taxpayers paid for the two terrorists to "grow up." That taxpayers are paying for their University education--after paying for K-12. That mom is a convicted career shoplifter. Than the deceased Perp was arrested for same but not taken to trial. That idiot Holder insisted on Mirandizing the surviving Perp when Massachusetts law allows up to 4 months without the M. Warning if they'd simply process a local arrest warrant. How much more government can we survive? Now we get to pay for public defenders. How about REVOKING CITIZENSHIP that was fraudulently obtained and cut back on the endless "rights" of the Perps?

  10. Given some of the comments, it may be useful to note here in the comments thread one thing I did not write in the story.
    The school district states in report from this March that most ELL students are born in the U.S.

    The relevant stat is here:
    --> 80.14% Percentage from United States - for report month indicated above.

  11. People like the commenter above, Roberta Anderson, display, in these public fora, their lack of understanding of the education profession, and of the practice of teaching. She wrongly places a critical emphasis on teaching, and mentions nothing about the process or responsibility for "learning".

    Even the greenest teacher understands that "learning" is a wholly inadequate instrument to evaluate "teaching". Teaching is the responsiblity of the teacher, and learning is the responsibility of the learner. If we are measuring learning, and the learning is inadequate, then who is responsible?

    (case in point, if one student in a given class earns an "A", then the teaching is good, no matter how many other students in the same class earn failing grades).

    Pretty simple concept, but one that those who do not understand education routinely make.

    Holding a teacher accountable for a student's inability (or lack of desire or motivation) to learn, is like holding a rancher accountable for the fact that the livestock won't drink from the trough. We can lead them to water... as the old adage goes.

    When the citizenry begins to attribute the issues and problems in education to "learning", we will begin to correctly address the issues facing education in America. When we falsely attribute quality and quantity of learning to the practice of teaching, we are identifying the easiest, surface-level, most rudimentary scapegoat possible.

    Learned people reflect and correct, while ignorant people blame others.

    It's so much easier to blame the teachers, espcially when one may already have an ideological propensity toward believing that the government cannot be trusted, and that our public servants are "parasites". Don't you believe a word of it!

    Clearly, commenters like Roberta Anderson, above, do not understand what our teachers do each and every day for the citizens of Nevada, and because of that, I am quite certain that her comments should not be taken seriously.

    Thank you Nevada teachers for everything you do, each and every day, to make our state, and our country, a better place, one student at a time.

    Let us remember to ask, "What can we do to increase the learning?"

  12. Do not waste your time people. Conservatives, by definition are such because they think their ideas ARE the only true ideas and there is only one side to a coin.

    Mindfulwhim has mentioned about 'teaching' and 'learning,' many before you have tried to clarify, and the LVSun staff writer's comments about ELL students being American citizens will NOT change conservatives' prejudicial eye on anyone colored.

    You are wasting time and space in this forum. Continue the discourse to find solutions. Ignore the ignorant comments. They're not worth it.

  13. Parents are a child's first and lifelong teacher. For decades, school choice has been available to parents, be it public, private, religious schools. Public education offers many alternatives to a discerning parent besides their neighborhood public school, as online education, alternative education (think Community School), independent study programs, and so on. A parent has the right to exercise their choice for their child's education.

    Education has struggled for years with sustainable, consistent funding, mostly due to politics. If Citizens are not involved with their government, then they can expect funding to lack stability as with educational programs and their outcomes. Public school teachers must teach what is mandated by those above them, so if you have a problem, look above a teacher who is in the trenches for accountability.

    As Commenter MindfulWhim eluded with, "Holding a teacher accountable for a student's inability (or lack of desire or motivation) to learn, is like holding a rancher accountable for the fact that the livestock won't drink from the trough. We can lead them to water... as the old adage goes." All too often teachers bear the full responsibility for learning, when in fact, the learner is responsible. Thank you, MindfulWhim, for reminding us all.

    Within the educational organization, there are many departments competing for scarce funding. Teachers who need educational supplies or equipment, are left out of that loop, and are having to troll the universe to get the most basic of things (Example: as tape/CD recorders, headphones, microphones, blank recordable tapes/CDs, read along books with activities) just to supply a CCSS mandate of a "Listening Center" for their classrooms. Those students who are emergent or struggling readers would clearly benefit, but it is out of the teacher's control, and in/under the control of those above them to budget, manage, order, and supply for the classroom. So the teacher continues to get beaten up over lack of student performance when clearly an identified need to support student learning, for example, is and continues to NOT be met.

    There is part of the problem, besides expecting learners come to school and are actively learning during the school day. Where is the ACLU lining up to address such matters that are consistently going on in hundreds of classrooms each day? Or what about student mental health access, which absolutely impacts learning? The ACLU should be addressing the needs of ALL students, regardless of race, gender, status.

    Educational funding is about ALL students. To pick and choose, is discriminatory, to say the least. Let's actively be involved about the care, welfare, security, and safety for all of our student population to benefit them in the present and prepare them for their future.

    Blessings and Peace,

  14. Starving public education of ADEQUATE funding will lead to: public schools failing. Our Nevada public schools need revenue. We need money. Our students have needs - not WANTS - NEEDS. It's undeniable. The data is clear. The lack of basic funding while we are raising the standards every year has clearly affected disenfranchised and disadvantaged groups the most. Nevada has drawn a line - and it appears only some will be educated. It is time to demand equity and justice and an end to this racism and discrimination.

  15. @Andrew Doughman, if you're trying to reason with @Roslenda by using facts... you're doing it wrong. She will continue to make up facts and complain about how "overpaid" teachers are, and claim that 2/3 of the students in the CCSD are illegals despite me asking her (at least twice) on this forum to name her source.

    Funding is clearly poor / wasted in the district. Yet we continue to spend millions on iPads to replace textbooks because some administrator somewhere thinks it will spark students' interests in school again. What we really need is a story on how many excessive people work down at the ed-shed doing made up jobs because they know someone, getting paid a full teacher's salary/benefit or more for doing almost nothing. Several of them are retirees coming back to get double their salaries. There is a district phone book with over 80 PAGES of people who just work over at the district offices. Why can't someone run a story on where cuts really need to be made? Or better yet, return everyone there to the classroom.

  16. Andrew, you think illegal students would CONFESS to CCSD that they are illegal? What is the source of the data that many ELL's are born here--born here to whom, illegal parents pregnant as they invade? Did you note that now-former State Super of Education Guthrie has stated straight out that CCSD class size is NOT in the high 30's, 40's and such? Seems to be some problem with the FACTS here. The same Super AGAIN explained that low class size does NOT help much if at all. He conceded that SOME class subjects might be better with a reasonable size but that things like math (lectures) can be much larger. And, have you noted that CCSD / teachers do NOT count things like reading "groups" as classes--since the small reading classes would mess up their inflated calculations? Public schools have already failed despite more funding that anywhere else on the planet. Shut them down. Provide funded options and allow the students a chance.

  17. Heh. I am continually amazed at how social conservatives rely upon their oversimplified "one-size-fits-all" set of rules. Give them a cost-benefit analysis and 10 commandments and they think they understand the entire universe.

    Strangely, they claim not to believe in Darwin's "survival of the fittest", yet their unwavering commitment to the notion of individualism, demonstrates a zealous dedication to it's practice.

    They hate teachers because teachers believe in helping all people (and it's the job they pay teachers to perform), which they call "socialist collectivism", but then they complain when teachers do not teach all students, AND they complain when we DO teach all of the students, including immigrants and EL Learners.

    They are clearly confused. The premise of their assertions is rooted in the notion of self interest as being the ultimate expression of the "good" (for individuals and for society), but they continually fail to include everyone in their calculations, thereby providing few opportunities for others to express their own individual interests.

    It seems clear that self interest is something they demand as a right, but make sure others cannot. That is the literal definition of parasitism.

  18. lobo: I have worked with CCSD management and have been in numerous Nevada classrooms. I've seen Nevada teachers on a daily basis. I see the classrooms and seldom see crowding. I have teaching credentials from the U.S. government but I am not licensed as that in Nevada. I am sick and tired of the waste in the class rooms, in "defense" and in welfare programs. I would like to see cost-effective social programs for CITIZENS who need it. My personal finances are just fine but now that I'm over 50-something, I see many seniors who struggle daily to put food on the table. It is simply unfair and the public is just not aware of how tough things get when they "retire."

  19. The departing State SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION again said that CCSD DOES NOT REPORT classes of 30-40 students. There is a CCSD employee for every 10.5 students. Guthrie also stated that small class size does not help much if at all--see the Jon Ralston show this week.