Las Vegas Sun

March 30, 2017

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Editorial: Breaking up is hard to do

The Nevada Legislative Commission gave the go-ahead last week to study the possible breakup of the Clark County School District.

The Nevada Legislature, in a special session earlier this year, already had approved spending $250,000 to study the concept of splitting up the district that in recent years has ranked as either the nation's fifth or sixth largest.

State Sen. Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson, has long supported dividing the 292,000-student district into several smaller ones. In May 2000, when she was serving in the Nevada Assembly, Tiffany circulated a petition calling for such a split. And a 1996 legislative study concluded that deconsolidation would be difficult, but not impossible.

However, the issue is not whether we can divide the district. It is whether we should.

When recently retired Clark County Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia first assumed the post in 2000, he opposed Tiffany's idea of a breakup. Clark County schoolchildren would suffer, he said, by being segregated ethnically and economically.

We agreed with him back then, and we still do today. There are other ways to streamline the overall organization and put more money into our schools.

One idea, which calls for giving more money and autonomy to school principals, is being promoted by the Council for a Better Nevada. The nonpartisan group of local business leaders is looking for ways to solve problems created by Nevada's growth, and includes Larry Ruvo, of Southern Wine & Spirits, Heather Murren, chief executive of the Nevada Cancer Institute, and Terry Lanni, MGM Mirage chairman and chief executive.

These members of the group spoke with the Las Vegas Sun editorial board last week and said they want to improve communication among community stakeholders and bring in outside experts to present new ideas.

This month CBN brought to Las Vegas William Ouchi, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, who has studied and assisted in the decentralization of large school districts across the country. Ouchi's idea is to give more money directly to principals, who then decide how to spend it based on their schools' particular needs.

There are a lot of new, innovative ideas, such as those advanced by Ouchi and others, that should be explored. The bottom line is that the focus should be on bringing about changes that actually would improve the quality of education in our public schools. Splitting up the district is a shallow approach to a complex issue that would do absolutely nothing to better our schools. If anything, it would worsen the situation and dim the prospects for any true reforms taking hold.

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