Educators, legislators mull 2005 session
School board members from four counties are set to meet with their state legislators Monday in Carson City to preview funding issues for the upcoming legislative session.
“We just thought it would be a good idea to get all the players together,” said Carson City School Board member Norm Scoggin.
For Bonnie Parnell, a former Carson City teacher and recently re-elected Democratic assemblywoman, the issues are long-range.
“I think this (legislative) session needs to be a time where everyone really takes the time to consider thoughtful, long-range strategy,” she said Thursday.
As a 23-year classroom veteran, Parnell said she understands educators’ frustrations with increasing accountability and testing requirements.
“I know personally from friends that testing demands so much classroom time. I have heard horrific numbers,” she said.
But, Parnell said, the federal No Child Left Behind legislation and state achievement requirements have produced positive results.
“We’ve had some great success stories in math and reading scores that are to be applauded. It needed to be done. We needed to have benchmarks and some way to analyze progress,” Parnell said.
“Everybody wants the best thing for our students, a good working environment for teachers and a chance for students to have the wonderful experience of academic achievement.”
Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said school districts are dissatisfied that a ballot initiative failed that would have prioritized school funding above all other expenses.
“This comes down every time to more demand than there is money,” Hettrick said. “Everybody wants to be made whole and there is simply not enough money to do that.”
Hettrick said he anticipated that the school boards would set their priorities for the legislators.
“We’ve always been willing to keep education at 50 to 51 percent of the state total,” he said. “We will have to see what else we can do.”
Hettrick said the 2005 session is looking at a surplus.
“And the economy is looking pretty good,” he said.
Douglas school board member Sharla Hales said the meeting would enhance discussion among school board members and representatives.
“We are completely dependent on the Legislature for funding, yet there is not a lot of dialogue. One objective is to interact to get an idea of our needs and to know whomto ask when there are education issues,” Hales said.
Scoggin cited the federal No Child Left Behind program and increased health benefits for retired employees as programs that school districts had to fund with inadequate resources.
“Last year, we had to pay added retirement benefits for 30 teachers, this year there will be more than 200 teachers,” he said. “These are budget killers.”
Scoggin said the Nevada school boards’ association planned to re-introduce iNVest, a bill first drafted by the state school boards in 2003 to insure adequate funding for Nevada students.
In 2003, the iNVest funding request was $879 million.
“Prior to the last session, the governor sat down with state superintendents and school boards and told us to prioritize what we wanted for education. We came up with the iNVest program for student achievement ,” Scoggin said. “We’re not just asking for a pot of money. These are priority things that would enhance all students’ education and it’s supported by all 17 school districts. We know we won’t get everything, but we would hope to get one or two this time.”
He encouraged teachers, parents, and other taxpayers to attend Monday night’s meeting at 6 p.m. at the library at Carson High School.
“I think it’s very appropriate for anyone to attend to find our just where our legislators are and what they are interested in doing. Anybody who is interested in education and taxes ought to attend,” Scoggin said.
School board members from Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties are expected to attend. Invited legislators include Parnell, Hettrick, Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington and sens. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, Mike McGinness, R-Fallon and Maurice Washington, R-Sparks.
Special school board meeting for Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties, 6 to 8 p.m., Carson High School Library, 1111 N. Saliman Road, Carson City. Information: 283-2000.