78.6 F

Educators Cannot Weather The Storm Alone (opinion)


It is a rainy day in Nevada, and our education system is in a state of emergency.

According to the National Education Association’s 2023 review published April 24, 2023, per-pupil spending in the state of Nevada is rated 48th in the nation. You may have heard this metric before; Nevada has been at the bottom for per-pupil funding ratings for decades. 

Being 48th in per-pupil funding means that Nevada spends less on each individual student than 47 other states. Only 2 states spend less per student than Nevada. This is not a metric to take lightly or to be proud of. It outlines the difference between high-quality education and a failing education system. 

The failure of Nevada’s education system due to lack of funding reveals itself in specific ways, such as having some of the highest class sizes in the nation. Classrooms across Washoe County School District exceed the recommended class size issued by the Nevada Department of Education, which degrades every child’s access to individualized instruction and overburdens educators. 

With large class size and extreme behaviors, teachers are burned out. This is in addition to a compensation deficit preventing teachers from affording the cost of living, which many teachers cite as their primary reason for leaving the profession (a first-year teacher makes $50k/year, while the average single-family home costs over $500k). This school year, there were 2,500 teaching vacancies, with 200 being in Washoe County School District. For this emergency, teachers on special assignments had to cover critical needs classes, the district implored teachers and counselors who had retired to return to supplement the deficit, and long-term subs took over classes as full-time employees. These reactive solutions to educator shortages prevent consistent and quality education.

Education support professionals provide the backbone for district-wide functioning, and they’re suffering too. In the 2021-2022 school year, the bus driving staff of WCSD was down 70 employees. The district was not able to offer consistent transportation services and was forced to change bus schedules. While they offered retention and hiring incentives that worked for short-term improvement of bus driver staff numbers, many education support professional positions are still left unfilled.

These are just a few examples of the crisis facing the Nevada public education system impacting children, teachers, support staff, families, and the community as a whole. While those of us who entered education did so with the passion for helping students succeed, we quickly found that neither us (the teachers) nor our students could survive this underfunded system. 

There is some hope. Lawmakers have the chance to change the direction we are heading. Governor Lombardo has put forth an historic amount of funding towards education in his budget proposal and revenue in Nevada has increased significantly. This could be a turning point for our suffering education system. 

However, the governor is also proposing holding 1.6 billion for the Rainy-Day fund. Legislators are debating right now whether to put even more into this fund – to be saved for emergencies. The emergency is now. We ask that lawmakers commit to funding the education system now. 

The Nevada State Education Association has an aspirational campaign called “Time For 20,” which asks for 20 percent raises for educators as well as a minimum $20 hourly wage for all school staff. This aspiration can become reality with your help in this session. 

Maggie Babb. Image courtesy of the author.
Maggie Babb. Image courtesy of the author.

While underfunding education in Nevada has caused dire staff shortages and one of the lowest per-pupil fundings in the nation, the state surplus can be put towards the “Time for 20” action plan and address what is happening now, not later. Failure to act will result in the continued decline of the Nevada education system until there isn’t one to fund at all. The rainy day is today. Let’s let the light in for Nevada students.

Maggie Babb is a local elementary school teacher and a member of the board of the Washoe Education Association.

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.

This Is Reno is your source for award-winning independent, online Reno news and events since 2009. We are locally owned and operated.