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Dear Governor Sisolak, Please stop donating your salary to education (opinion)

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on
Protesters rally against budget cuts to education outside the Nevada Legislature on the first day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Pool photo by David Calvert/The Nevada Independent

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

Submitted by Jenny Snaza

Dear Governor Sisolak,

From a mother of two kids that will attend public school in Washoe County, I am writing to ask you to please stop donating your salary to education. Surprised? 

The truth is that I believe deeply in public education and know that access for all members of a community is essential for the health of our community and country. Having grown up in Reno, I benefitted from the Nevada public education system. While never perfect, the teachers, mentors and diverse curricular opportunities that I had were essential to me in finding my way to a fulfilling career and family life. 

Fast forward to the sick feeling in my stomach that I have when I think of my strong girls being thrown into enormous classrooms, inevitably to be lost in the chaos of our current education system. I am disheartened and deeply saddened that they will not have the opportunity to have access to a quality public education – a reality that has led those of higher income brackets to opt-out of public education, further deepening the disparity of the “haves” and “have nots” in our community.

But really, who can blame them? Nevada continues to commit to being the worst in education. From the largest class sizes in America to receiving an “F” in all three categories of educational funding, we just keep taking and taking from the children in our community.

And while we know that teachers are unjustly burdened with the blame, our community is awakening to the truth that it’s not the fault of the teachers. It’s all of our faults. We have to invest in electing representatives that work not only for political gain but for the long-term success of the community’s residents. We, as mothers, fathers, superintendents, administrators, teachers, business leaders, and employees must hold our elected officials accountable for contributing to the downfall of our public education systems. 

I hope the community will join me in asking you to, please, stop acting the martyr. 

While at first I was enamored with the idea of you donating your salary, it didn’t take long to see that this small symbolic gesture acts to undermine real action for long-term funding for education. We, your constituents, implore you to find new, long-term revenue sources to ensure that K-12 doesn’t just survive. Do this so that one day, there is the hope that it can thrive—that ALL children can have access to quality education in our state. Do this so that businesses will come to our state not only because they benefit from low tax structures, but because they will have access to a quality, well-educated workforce. Acknowledge through action that we lose job-creating business opportunities due to the embarrassing state of our public education systems and the lack of highly qualified applicants.

Continuing to defund education, or make temporary patches with federal monies aimed at supporting COVID relief methods, is a disservice to us all. We need bold, bi-partisan action to preserve what is left of education.

The good news is that there are solutions! Continue to work to stop supplanting, an act that has stolen $1.6 billion from students, educators and classrooms since 2011. Look to have industries that benefit from our state’s natural resources, yet send the profits from their endeavors out of state or out of country, such as mining, pay their fair share of taxes. It is beyond time that industries and corporations contribute to the betterment of our communities. Their essentially tax-free ride rips away the futures of our children. 

To not acknowledge that our state is facing a daunting budget shortfall is also short-sighted. The effects of COVID on our communities will continue to be felt for generations. While I wish there was money that could be taken away from education to address this shortfall, there is not.

The public education system has been in a slow state of failure since the Great Recession. Taking more money is unethical and will ensure that the teachers and administrators that you have left will continue to leave the profession at astonishing rates. There is no one to replace them as (luckily?) our children are smart enough to not join a profession where they are grossly underpaid, undervalued, and treated as disposable.

And who will suffer? All Nevadans. But, especially the children. You must commit to working to get Nevada’s per-pupil spending equal to the national average. Do not use federal COVID relief monies to fill the hole created by our legislature’s unwillingness to properly fund education. This money is intended to be supplemental to a realistic budget in order to provide assistance in direct response to the pandemic including: student mental health programs, ventilation system updates, PPE, disinfectant supplies, and distance learning improvements including closing the technology gap. To do so would again steal essential resources from our children and put into peril efforts to safely and effectively keep schools open in the coming years.

Finally, not only does the action of donating your salary undermine real funding solutions for education, it solidifies the idea that public officials must have or come from wealth in order to perform their duties as public officers. We the people pay you this salary in order for you to do the work involved in bettering our communities. To throw your salary at a problem for political points insults the intelligence of your constituency. While you are trying to look like you are doing “everything” you can for education, you aren’t. This smoke and mirrors political posturing is counterproductive.

Your constituents know it. 

Your community, and I, have supported you in the past. We continue to reach out a hand in the hope that you will work with the legislators and educational leaders to create hope for a better tomorrow. We don’t want you to be a martyr. We want you to commit to properly funding public education in Nevada.


Jenny Snaza

Jenny Snaza is a Washoe County School District parent, education professional, and member of Empower Nevada Teachers.

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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