Question: “Should the Clark County School District be deconsolidated?”
There is No Valid Reason to Keep A Super-Sized District
by Sen. Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson
It is truly sad and extremely disappointing that so much misinformation and so many disingenuous statements are made in our press and to my fellow legislators on the issue of school district size. There is simply no valid argument to keep a super-sized district that has almost 400,000 students. Our students, their families, and Nevada can no longer wait to institute a rational system of smaller districts along the lines of 40,000 to 50,000 students each.
Credible research strongly suggests the negative implications of large districts on poor, disadvantaged and minority students. The potential improvement for poor students in smaller districts is one reason the Caucus of African American Nevadans has endorsed my bill. Super-sized districts like Clark County compound disadvantage. If there is one educational issue that all legislators, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, should agree on, it is the deconsolidation of Clark County schools.
The dismal performance of Clark County schools does not need to be repeated here; it has been addressed in a series of educational reports. Academic research on super-sized districts like Clark County is becoming overwhelming – namely, that large district size has a consistent and negative influence on student performance. Unfortunately, a large school district like Clark County only benefits the top administration in the district; it does not benefit students, parents or individual teachers.
Student performance is higher in those metropolitan areas with many school districts rather than in a single school district that enrolls most children. Consolidation of a large district has dampened school performance by reducing competition. Smaller districts tend to demonstrate greater achievement equity. In fact, community support for school funding actually is often stronger in a system of smaller districts.
Let me give three examples of misinformation that has been publicized. First, there is no credible evidence that we need a super-sized district to enjoy economies of scale in purchasing. This is a myth perpetuated both on the public and my fellow legislators by the power brokers of our current system. Second, the bizarre notion that other states want districts to be consolidated like Clark County borders on dishonesty. Third, the idea that smaller districts would cost too much is propaganda and untrue. Estimates are that super-sized districts actually have higher total costs.
There is no rational way to support the existence of a super-sized district like Clark County. Perhaps this is why there are so many spurious claims, attempts to scare parents, and other attempts to avoid the issue.
Consequences of Deconsolidation Must be Considered
By: Carlos Garcia, Superintendent, Clark County School District
The most important factor when considering the idea of deconsolidating CCSD into a number of smaller, independent districts is how the outcome will best serve the interests of our students and community. The idea of smaller districts is not new, nor without some merit, but it comes with far-reaching complexities and challenges.
Deconsolidation would have to be accomplished without creating inequity for students. Division must ensure socio-economic and ethnic diversity, a factor we consider in creating boundaries for our schools. Districts that are perceived as “poor” or “unsafe” have greater difficulty recruiting teachers and other staff than districts perceived as “wealthy” or “elite.” Families may begin to buy or rent homes based on district dividing lines, causing divisions in our community and increasing the disparity.
The split would affect teacher recruitment and could lead to local districts being forced to compete against one another, particularly if each district forms its own unions for bargaining purposes. Districts with more financial resources could allocate a larger percentage of funds to recruiting efforts and teacher salaries, resulting in inequity.
The plan must be fiscally viable. Taxpayers need a guarantee that taxes will not be increased. However, additional funding is unavoidable when current district-wide services and service facilities such as central offices, construction, transportation and food services are duplicated in new districts. Each district would also need a superintendent and key administrative staff. Competition between the districts could potentially drive the salaries of central office administrators and principals upward. CCSD would also lose its buying power as a large district and the economies of scale that it provides.
Another concern is determining which taxpayers will assume responsibility for paying existing and future debt. Typically, the area that receives the benefits bears the cost. Existing debt would have to be paid based on a distribution yet to be determined. Taxes to pay for new debt would have to be borne by the taxpayers in the growing districts that need new schools.
I believe I speak for a lot of people in the CCSD by saying we don’t automatically disregard the idea of deconsolidation. However, the Board of School Trustees would need to see a plan that does not decrease the quality of education for any of our students, does not increase costs for taxpayers, nor create delineations of “haves” and “have-nots” in our community. If such a plan can be devised, and if the citizens of Clark County want this change, the district will be responsive to community desires.