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Problems don’t solve themselves
by Cortney Maddock
Feb 28, 2011 | 839 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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About a month ago, I received an e-mail from the Clark County School District asking me to provide a reference for a friend who had applied for a job as a substitute teacher. In speaking with my friend, her goal was admirable: make change in a student’s life.

My friend Andrea had an interview that was less than 20 minutes long and then was asked to obtain references. When she thought the entire process was completed — all I’s dotted and T’s crossed — she heard nothing back, even though she had been told in the interview that Clark County desperately needed substitute teachers.

While Andrea is trying to kick-start a teaching career in Las Vegas, in Washoe County I am lucky enough to see the rewards of a good teacher on her students. My friend teaches English at Hug High School and while there are days that are tough, Christina frequently comments that the rewards outweigh the rough times. She has seen students who work multiple jobs, as well as their parents, be rewarded by college acceptance letters. She also has seen students who have nothing study after school while eating a district-provided dinner.

When out in the community, a chorus of voices often will shout Christina’s name and greet her with smiles and stories of their weekend plans, family gatherings or social endeavors. She has become more than a teacher, she is a mentor, a confidant and a guiding light for her students. For some, she is a family member — someone who supports them when life is difficult, congratulates them when life is rewarding and is there to talk when they need a friend.

On today’s page, fellow columnist Larry Wilson makes the argument that defunct family situations created by the gaming and tourism industries have resulted in the poor educations statistics that plague Nevada. I don’t agree with the former educator. Wilson argues that Nevada’s gaming and tourism rip families apart, leaving kids to struggle with home life, which in turn affects their education.

Wilson said a proper parent should work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and have weekends off with their children. While Wilson might live in a fantasy land, I think many readers will realize that this ideal is no longer applicable to modern American lives.

The low-wage, long-hour casino jobs Wilson refers to as being the employers of parents whose children become a statistic in Washoe County might be the only job those parents have access to. I would challenge Wilson to find a job in this struggling economy; even with his skill set and education, I doubt he would find something paying more than minimum wage.

While swing-shift hours might not sound appealing to Wilson, who worked an ideal schedule from what I can gather, some families might enjoy the flexibility it creates in finding affordable childcare. What if mom is home with the kids from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and dad is home from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.? The children will always have a parent present, someone to help them with homework, cook meals, bandage skinned knees and read bedtime stories.

It might not be ideal for a parent to be working in the wee hours of the morning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love apple pie, time with mom and the American flag.

Wilson’s argument that Nevada’s more family-friendly neighboring states had better education standards is a defunct argument, as well. According to a count done by Education Week in 2010 looking at graduation rates between 1997 and 2007, Nevada fell from 65.7 to 41.8. Not a pleasant stat, sure, but California went from 67.4 to 62.7 percent, Utah went from 79 to 77.1 percent, New Mexico went from 56.3 to 54.9 percent and Idaho maintained its rate at 73 percent. The national gradation rate average is 68.8 percent.

I will agree that Nevada’s educational needs usually seem to take a back seat to other issues that plague the state, including addiction, teen pregnancy, suicide rates, foreclosures, bankruptcies and budget woes.

If we’re concerned about the future of Nevada’s youth, I don’t think we need to cry foul against the casinos — especially since more room tax revenue from Clark County, Reno and unincorporated parts of Washoe County is set to help improve K-12 education effective in July. Thank you tourists for a glimmer of hope.

In reality, we need to rally against state budget cuts, even though it is the federal government’s current proposal to limit Pell Grant funding that will cripple college campuses across the country.

In recent weeks, Gov. Brian Sandoval has unapologetically told educators and school district officials across the state to brace for deep slashes in their students’ funding. In the governor’s budget, he is proposing cutting an average of 5.2 percent per pupil, which would axe more than $200 per student.

Sure, it’s been a while since I attended public school in Nevada, but I still remember sharing books, buying my own supplies and contributing to the “classroom needs” items that were sent home in a list to my parents. I can only imagine how much $200 per student would supply to struggling classroom, especially to the students Christina teaches at Hug High School. After all, some of those students don’t have enough food in their home refrigerators to eat dinner, much less contribute to an ever-growing classroom needs supply list.

Cortney Maddock is a reporter for the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached at cmaddock@dailysparkstribune.com.
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