With the 2022 election in the rearview mirror, Nevada can get down to the business of improving education.
Parents, teachers and education freedom advocates cited a myriad of reasons for the state’s poor showing: shortage of education options, lack of accountability, politically divisive content in classrooms, resistance to parental involvement in their children’s education and poor test scores.
Power2Parent Vice President Deborah Earl believes in the need for educational freedom in Nevada. She highlighted the state’s “dismal proficiency scores,” which rank Nevada as one of the worst states in education. States that allow parents to choose the type of classroom that best fits their child’s learning style have much better outcomes, she said.
“Nevadans know that education is the path to opportunity so that students can eventually become contributing members in the communities in which they live. Investing in education is the first step to investing in the future economic and well-being of its citizens,” she told Nevada Policy.
In a large district like Clark County School District with a top-down bureaucracy, Earl said that it is difficult to have the district be child-centered. Taxpayer dollars are wasted due to lack of oversight and accountability, she said, adding that some parents feel they are treated as barriers to the education of their children rather than partners in their success.
Timothy Underwood of For the Children of CCSD, a parents’ rights group, has focused on fighting for parental rights in the classroom.
He would love to see Nevada parents be more involved at school board meetings and display the passion shown in Northern Virginia, where parents have voiced their anger about politically divisive content being pushed in classrooms.
“If adult parents don’t reorient their lives around their children’s education, they’re going to lose their kids to powerful forces that are running amok in education,” he said.
Former Clark County School District teacher MaryAnn Powley is concerned about “hidden agendas” in schools, and she believes that parents need to be involved with their children’s education.
“Parents are very furious, because they feel like the state and the schools are overstepping their boundaries,” she said. “A society is created by families. Families and parents need to be the ones that set the foundation, and education comes in and helps with that.”
The Hispanic community has also shown concern about education in the state.
Heavy-handed policies hurt students during the past two years, according to Valeria Gurr, director of external affairs for the American Federation for Children.
“You’re seeing the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores are better for the states that remained open, but in states like Nevada, they forced all the schools to close,” said Gurr, a mother and Las Vegas resident, during an interview on Fox Business. “In states like mine, the results were not good.”
In Nevada this year, NAEP scores were abysmal. Only 28.39 percent of Nevada fourth graders achieved basic proficiency in Mathematics and only 26.92 were proficient in Reading. Among eighth graders, just 20.82 percent of students were proficient in Math and 28.80 in Reading. Nevada fourth graders ranked 43rd and 45th nationally in Math and Reading, respectively, while eighth graders came in 41st in Math and 29th in Reading.
Around 43 percent of students in Nevada are Hispanic, and Gurr explained how Hispanic parents want more education options for their children.
Education advocate and Clark County mother Charlie de la Paz, like Gurr, recognized that family and education are important to the Hispanic community.
“As the daughter of a Latino mother, it was engrained in me that education was probably one of the most important aspects of my life,” de la Paz told Nevada Policy. “I know for certain that education is also a priority not only to the larger parts of my Hispanic family, but also to our culture as a whole.”
Nevada Policy has developed a comprehensive platform for education reform in the state that lawmakers and Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo should consider for the upcoming legislative session.