Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2019

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Las Vegas mayor hopes Sisolak can spur real change of education system

New Las Vegas Gateway Sign Unveiled

Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman speaks as a new Las Vegas gateway sign is dedicated Tuesday, August 7, 2018. CREDIT: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Nevada's public educational system needs to be overhauled and urged Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak to be careful with the people he hires when he takes office in January.

"Gov. Sisolak, he is not an educator," Goodman said Tuesday on "Nevada Newsmakers." "He is a fine man and he is very focused on results and I hope he gets the right people around him and doesn't recycle the mediocrity that has been here for 40 years in education. This state has a lot to learn.

"The whole system needs to be revamped, looked at and fixed," Goodman said.

Goodman, who founded the Meadows School in Las Vegas in 1984, said the state should double per-pupil spending, an area that deals with classroom instruction and teacher salaries. Currently, Nevada uses a base figure of $5,387 in per-pupil spending when allocating state money to county school districts.

"In the school system, we need great teachers in every single classroom," Goodman said. "And for the modest amount of tuition dollars, especially in Clark County that are allocated per pupil, $5,700, you probably can't get a babysitter for that. Now we are trying to attract and retain the best teachers in the country, there is no way (that is enough).

"Every student probably needs about $10,000 allocated (in per-pupil spending)," she said. "And I am not only talking about the children in the inner city or the forgotten children."

Goodman's opinion aligns with a recent study commissioned by the Nevada Legislature that shows the state's per-pupil finding should be about $9,200 per pupil to adequately fund education. So Nevada's current per-pupil finding is only about 58 percent of what it should be, according to the study that was done after the 2017 legislative session.

"We have great teachers and great programs, but it is not pervasive for everybody and that is what I want to see," Goodman said. "We have so many young children who are just throw-away children because their parents are maybe single parents who have to work two jobs to feed the child and can't be there to be supportive and involved."

Goodman suggested room-tax money and marijuana tax money could boost per-pupil spending.

Currently, about 14 percent of room-tax revenue in Clark County goes to school construction, although that tax source cannot be used to boost per-pupil educational spending.

The 15 percent wholesale tax on marijuana also goes to the state's main education account. Yet Nevada's Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, a Las Vegas Democrat, has proposed the state's additional 10 percent retail marijuana tax also go to education. It currently goes to the state's rainy-day fund.

"We have been throwing money there to keep up with the building and capital area, but buildings don't teach, buses don't teach," she said. "People teach. Programs teach. Curriculum teaches."

Goodman was also critical of the tax system that distributed money to schools statewide.

"Most of the money, probably 80 percent of the money, comes from Southern Nevada," she said. "But we don't get 80 percent of the money for our children's education."