By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… If you are not interested in the educational reform of the Clark County School District (CCSD) you should stop reading now. Those who know me well know that I am an educational “wonk”.
A wonk is defined in the Webster Dictionary as a person preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized field. That is probably a fair description of me. I love education and will talk education all day with anyone who will listen. I must admit it comes to a point of near obsession and, I am afraid, boredom for the listener.
I remember sitting through a day-long session on the reorganization of CCSD when, mid-way through, one of the legislators said to me: “Did you see that mother take that crying baby out of the room? I was wondering if I started crying if someone would carry me out. Aren’t you bored to death?” My reply was: “I am utterly fascinated by all this talk of education, education has been my life for nearly 50 years. I am having fun.”
I have for the last two years sat through over twenty such day-long meetings. Half of them as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee on the Reorganization of the Clark County School District. The other half observing the actions of the Legislative Committee to Reorganize the Clark County School District.
All that being said, I recently spent a rather interesting Monday at the State Building in Las Vegas observing the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Reorganization of the Clark County School District. Those of you who have been following this drama know that what started as a call to break-up the District quickly changed to a reorganization of the district, and then to a reform. Finally, as the Democrats on the reorganization committee prevailed in getting all meaningful reform removed from the law, it became a defense of the status quo.
One of the most fascinating statements made during the recent day-long hearing was made by the Superintendent of CCSD when he was defending the reduction of administrators and teachers in rural schools. The Superintendent explained that the reduction of staffing was justified because those positions were “off-ratio” positions given to the rural schools by him and his predecessors in their role as “Benevolent Dictators” over the schools of CCSD. Benevolent Dictator are his words, not mine.
I taught government and history for 18 years and I believe I understand what a benevolent dictator is. But to be sure I looked up the definition and it is as follows: “A benevolent dictatorship is a theoretical form of government in which an authoritarian leader (the benevolent dictator) exercises absolute political power over the state but does so for the benefit of the population as a whole. A benevolent dictator may allow for some economic liberalization or democratic decision-making to exist… with limited power…The label has been applied to leaders such as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), Abdullah II of Jordan, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), France-Albert René of Seychelles, and Qaboos bin Said al Said (Oman).”
Now we can add the Superintendents of CCSD to that list.
I want you to keep in mind that it is not a title I gave the Superintendent position but one assigned by the current Superintendent. If I were to depict the leadership style of the Superintendent, I would most likely drop benevolent as a descriptor.
The Superintendent seemed to indicate that staffing positions allowing for equity in the remote rural schools are “gifts”. I would again remind you “gifts” is his term not mine; and these “gifts” were given out of the goodness of the hearts of present and past benevolent Superintendents rather than out of educationally sound principles to ensure an equitable education for the seven to eight thousand rural students throughout the district.
Section 19 of the reorganization law is the attempt to make the educational equity for rural students an educational imperative rather than something received out of the goodness of a benevolent dictator’s heart. It requires the District to determine the base per pupil funding for 2016-17 school year and then determine the per pupil funding for each rural school. This funding will be greater than the base. The law states that the district may not reduce that funding unless there is a corresponding proportional reduction across the district.
One would suspect that when the per pupil funding in General Operating Budget increased by approximately 4 percent, and the Superintendent lowers the proportional per pupil funding for a rural school by 3 percent, this would be a violation of Section 19.3 of AB 469.
But since the District refuses to release the financial information needed to determine the validity of the reductions, one can only speculate these rural school staffing reductions are not in compliance with the new state law.
It begins to appear that if an equitable education is to be provided for the rural school children interested parents must make a legal challenge to the cuts that are being made to rural school staffing. This will not be an easy task. After watching the district stonewall the reorganization efforts for two years the Biblical passage that comes to mind as I encourage parents to possibly seek a legal challenge to this behemoth of a bureaucracy is the message Moses from antiquity had for the Israelites as they prepared to cross the Jordan River and challenge the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 9:1-2. “…you are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself; cities great and fortified up to heavens, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know; and of whom heard it said ‘who can stand before the descendants of Anak.”
The challenge facing those who would have the CCSD abide by the law as it pertains to rural school funding may be no less formidable. However, it may be time for the rural parents of CCSD to cross the river of resistance and challenge the fortifications placed before them by the bureaucracy of CCSD, understanding the foe to rural education is strong and powerful but not necessarily above the law.
Thought of the week…Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
– Laurence J. Peter