Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

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CCSD’s Skorkowsky unsure if margins tax for education ‘is right way or not’

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Steve Marcus

Pat Skorkowsky, Clark County School District superintendent, responds to a question during an editorial board meeting at the Las Vegas Sun Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.

Pat Skorkowsky said he hasn’t taken a position yet on an upcoming ballot measure that would raise taxes for education.

The Clark County Schools superintendent told the Sun's editorial board on Tuesday that he plans to advocate for more resources for Las Vegas schools. But Skorkowsky said he wasn’t certain if a new margin tax was the right way to go about getting “adequate resources” for students.

“Do we need to increase the size of the (funding) pie? You bet,” Skorkowsky said. “But I’m not sure if (the margins tax) is the right way or not. The analysis is still coming in on a daily basis.”

The ballot measure — called the Education Initiative — would impose a 2 percent margins tax on Nevada corporations making more than $1 million in revenue a year.

Proponents of the initiative, which is supported by the teachers union, estimate the tax would raise $800 million a year for Nevada schools. However, business groups have voiced staunch opposition to the margins tax, which they argue would stifle the state’s economic recovery.

Nevada spends $8,454 per student, which is about $3,000 less than the national average and ranks 49th nationally, according to Education Week.

Skorkowsky said the School District and School Board have historically remained silent on tax proposals. Instead of advocating a position on the margins tax, the superintendent said he intends to increase the district’s transparency over its budget and its accountability over student achievement.

“I’m not going to go to anyone and just ask for more money,” Skorkowsky said. “As we go forward, it won’t be just crying poor. It will be if you want a bump (in graduation rates and student test scores), then this is what you can expect if this is what I get.”

Skorkowsky is working on drafting a white paper over the next several months that will outline his goals for the Clark County School District. He plans to seek public input from a wide range of community members, including businesses and teachers, to craft his vision.

The superintendent said he hopes the community will hold him accountable for the goals he outlines in this document. His predecessor Dwight Jones issued similar white papers — called “A Look Ahead” — during his tenure.

“I’m going to be held accountable for everything in this document,” Skorkowsky said. “But I’ve got to hold the community accountable so we get the adequate resources so we can make a difference.”

Skorkowsky said he hopes to ask for specific programs that will boost school performance. These include full-day kindergarten for all students, class-size reduction and stronger support for English-language learners, he said.

Skorkowsky said he looks forward to upcoming discussions about changing Nevada’s K-12 school funding formula, which has long been criticized for short-changing Southern Nevada students and subsidizing schools in rural counties. The current formula — called the Nevada Plan — hasn’t changed much since it was passed in 1967.

However, Skorkowsky said changing how the state divvies up school funding won’t make a difference if there isn't enough funding to go around.

“The biggest challenge is we can’t afford to let the size of the pie continue the way it is for all of us,” Skorkowsky said. “As new funding formulas come forward, we have to look at increasing the pie so that we’re not harming anyone in the state. We want to look at how we can move forward so that every student in the state of Nevada is successful.”

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