VETTE’S VEGAS VOICE: In 2016, education is the issue to watch
BY YVETTE WILLIAMS
On December 10, President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. It is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and replaces the widely-criticized No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.
This new law addresses many student needs identified in the Clark County Black Caucus-sponsored education initiative Operation32371.org. It calls for universal access to highly effective teachers, early childhood education, college and career preparation, and equitable instructional resources. It has a number of key focus areas:
- Closes achievement gaps through more efficient assessments, transparent reporting, and improvement plans tailored to meet the needs of each student and school
- Sets the highest standard for all students, with state standards aligned for college and career readiness and reporting on access to higher level courses
- Offers targeted school support plans where any subgroup of students is struggling — so that poverty will not be an excuse for not being able to better serve students
- Provides supplemental funding to promote safe, healthy, and well-rounded students through STEM education, mental health resources, arts and music programs, and community involvement
- Reduces the use of exclusionary discipline practices
- Authorizes a program to assist with implemental early childhood learning and reaching all students — including those most vulnerable students who would otherwise fall behind
- Ensures fiscal fairness so that students will have equal access to experienced and effective teachers and school leaders by reporting on per pupil expenditures
- Maintains federal authority to hold non-compliers accountable
Not to be outdone, the Nevada State Legislature passed historic education reforms with bipartisan support, and 2016 promises to be an exceptional year for educational outcomes — especially for students in high-poverty communities. At last, Nevada is positioned to tackle the embarrassing low proficiencies of students on free or reduced lunch, with a means to provide additional resources to address their needs.
Although Victory schools are well underway, Nevada parents are awaiting judicial rulings on the implementation of the Education Savings Account (ESA) funds. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to prevent implementation of this program, citing the prohibition of federal funds for private school tuition. If the ruling goes in favor of the Nevada Department of Education, the program will allow parents to choose where their students attend school. For low-income students, scholarships to low-income would help supplement the cost of private school tuition. The application deadline to receive funds is quickly approaching, and can be found at http://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/SchoolChoice/Home/.
With the final passage of multicultural education, expect to see changes to social studies curriculum and state standards to include more racially diverse content and cultural competency training for teachers. To encourage high-performing teachers to teach at high-risk schools, a $5,000 bonus should increase the number of certified teachers on campus and reduce the number of substitute teachers. Additionally, proficiency gaps will be easier to identify with the passing of AB107 — which requires the reporting of student proficiencies by race, ethnicity, and gender.
There will be tremendous focus on the reorganization of Clark County School District. Legislators want to provide the community with more local accountability and engagement, and passed legislation with bipartisan support requiring the development of a plan that will reorganize Clark County School District into smaller regional (precinct) districts. Go to http://bit.ly/1MxDpzl to see how your legislator voted. It may be surprising. Complete our community survey www.CCBlack-Caucus.com by January 15 and provide your feedback.
Keep your eye on education in 2016 — it promises to be an exciting year.
Yvette Williams is founder of the Clark County Black Caucus. Learn more at www.YvetteBWilliams.com, follow her on Twitter @YvetteBWilliams and send email to ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com.