September 24, 2022 - 9:01 pm
Superintendent Jesus Jara is fast becoming the most effective spokesman for the effort to break up the Clark County School District.
Mr. Jara recently expressed his opposition to the Community Schools Initiative. The proposal would allow local jurisdictions to opt out of the Clark County School District. If backers gather enough signatures, the Legislature could approve the proposal next year.
If lawmakers ignore it, the plan would go to voters in 2024.
Efforts to ask voters to break up the district date back decades and have typically fallen victim to legal challenges or a lack of resources. This time, however, could be different. Six chamber of commerce organizations — including the Vegas Chamber, Latin Chamber, Urban Chamber and Asian Chamber — recently endorsed the move, suggesting it has a real chance of success.
The impetus for the initiative is obvious. Fewer than 40 percent of district fourth graders are proficient in reading. In math, it’s 30.5 percent. Certainly, the unnecessarily long coronavirus shutdowns set students back, but that further makes the case for the proposal. If there had been several school districts in Clark County, one or more may have reopened their doors in the fall of 2020.
Mr. Jara, however, insists neither he nor other district officials can do much about the district’s perpetually poor performance.
“This current effort is based not on facts but on a bias-based fiction predicated on ignoring the evidence,” Mr. Jara wrote in a letter to the school community. “The size of the student population does not matter; what matters is the size of the state’s financial commitment to its children.”
Translated: Don’t look at me. This mess is someone else’s fault. But keep the greenbacks coming.
Mr. Jara’s “pass the buck” attitude is unlikely to sit well with parents. If the system isn’t working, as Mr. Jara all but admits, it’s natural that they’d want to seek out alternatives. The ballot question offers the hope of precisely that.
The community shouldn’t accept this excuse either. Governor after governor has tried to improve education outcomes by spending more money. Twice in the past two decades, the Legislature approved the largest tax hikes in Nevada history, specifically to fund the public school system. Yet the dismal test scores persist.
Ironically, the district said in a recent statement that its per-pupil funding went up by 25 percent over the past four years. This is yet more evidence that endless taxpayer contributions won’t fix bad policy decisions.
There are plenty of worthy changes that don’t require another dime. Mr. Jara has long pushed to reduce suspensions and expulsions. A newly created district could punish rule breakers and create safer learning environments. Under his leadership, the district gutted grading standards. A new school district could reverse course and strive for excellence rather than universal mediocrity in the name of “equity.”
The best way for Mr. Jara to stop the breakup petition is to create such a successful district that no one wants to leave. His rhetoric, however, suggests this is highly unlikely.