Increased Transparency Key to Trust in Nevada Education
What prompted Candra Evans, a Nevada parent, to file a lawsuit against the Clark County School District board of trustees in January 2023?
Her 15-year-old daughter had been given a sexually explicit assignment in school. When Evans brought this to the attention of CCSD, she was dismissed.
She attempted to read aloud the inappropriate assignment given to her daughter during a board of trustees meeting, but Evans’ microphone was muted by a trustee who stopped the comment over the language.
“Forgive me, we’re not using profanity,” then-chairwoman Irene Cepeda said.
“If you don’t want me to read it to you, what was it like for my 15-year-old daughter to have to memorize pornographic material?” Evans said.
While she was allowed to finish her testimony, she was prevented from sharing any more of her daughter’s assignment.
Evans’ story highlights the pressing need for transparency and accountability in education, a concern shared by many Nevada parents.
All over the country, parents want to know what their children are learning and how their taxpayer dollars are spent. In Nevada alone, 55 percent of voters want more transparency in the classroom, according to a recent poll conducted by State Policy Network.
In 2022, it was reported that CCSD signed contracts with consultants that were known to advocate for politically divisive topics in the classroom.
This includes $785,999 payment to Panorama Education Inc., a Boston company which has come under fire for its social-emotional learning surveys, which include controversial questions about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Parents, teachers and several school board members were also worried over data that was provided for the performance of CCSD’s Superintendent Jesus Jara, before he received a $75,000 raise in October 2022, nearly a year after he was fired and then rehired.
Data Insight Partners pointed out that his goals to increase proficiency scores, lower suspension and expulsion rates and hire more classroom teachers that were purportedly met, did not tell the full story.
These instances have led elected officials to call for Nevada school districts to be audited.
On the first day of the 2023 Nevada Legislative Session, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed an executive order demanding an audit of all 17 Nevada school districts and the State Public Charter School Authority.
Nevada Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager later announced that he plans to introduce legislation that would require school districts to account for how funds would be spent to increase student achievement and ensure that the money will be used to “address the needs of students, teachers and education support staff.”
Lack of transparency in schools has also led some states to advance legislation requiring schools to publicly post curricula, enabling parents to view what is being taught in the classroom. Nevada has yet to introduce legislation to allow for more transparency of materials.
Others have asserted that school choice will also increase transparency in the classroom. Cato Institute argues that transparency “must be coupled with school choice.”
Having more options in education would allow families to choose and would enable competition between different schools. Competition has been known to incentivize schools to improve performance. This would lead schools to be more transparent in order to retain students.
Parents Defending Education, a parental rights organization, argues that, beyond fighting for school choice, parents and taxpayers need to demand transparency and accountability from school administrators. They say this will ensure that public funds are used to advance student achievement.
“Nevada taxpayers and parents have a legitimate concern regarding the use of their public funds to insert controversial agendas and ideologies in their classrooms,” Parents Defending Education’s Director of Community Engagement, Mailyn Salabarria, told Nevada Policy. “We have seen incidents in districts, such as Clark County, where they paid public funds to consultants to bring nonacademic topics to teachers’ training and students’ surveys.”
Parents want more transparency and accountability in education. Policies such as advocating for school choice, asking school districts to be audited and requiring schools to publicly post materials can facilitate clearing the path toward this goal.