Bullshitted for a good cause: Funding schools in Washoe County, NV

I have to take to the air to air out these grievances, to point to the people who continue to ruin this community by not giving a rat’s ass about the quality of life the many can live here so that they, the few, can have ever more.  Today in the local newspaper ran a story concerning the big push, the well-funded effort to win “for the schools” a raise in the sales tax to fix the long broken campuses and build new ones to accommodate the new growth, new growth in a community in which those who already live here suffer from not enough.  I have been monitoring for a couple of months the new positive attitude that agencies such as the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and the Chamber of Commerce have been pushing, a hollow campaign based on half-truths and even some lies.  While it is almost impossible to find where EDAWN found the numbers it is publishing to show that Washoe County Schools are already in relatively good shape—except, apparently, for the buildings in which instruction takes place.  Test scores according to the charts being circulated by spokespeople for those with clout in the region, are rather good, students doing at or above average on such examinations as the ACT and the SAT.  And, as the RGJ article reports, graduation rates are at an all-time high.  Miracle of miracles!  Not too long ago, even in statistics that were about Washoe

County only (we are always reminded that WCSD is better than the rest of the state, that the state statistics are problematic for our region only because they make us look bad when we are really good.  Not more than seven or eight years ago, WCSD schools were plastered with posters advertising our World Class School District, a claim debunked when real numbers were counted and were allowed to reflect the fact that graduation rates were low and dropout rates were high, that good numbers of students by their senior year in high school could not pass the state proficiency tests, and that considerable numbers of those graduating with WSCD diplomas were in need of remediation in mathematics and English when they found their way into colleges.

There was a turn around and it happened during the tenure of two business minded superintendents, Heath Morrison and Pedro Martinez, both graduates of the Broad Academy, an organization that prepares business people (not educators) to assume leadership positions in public schools.  The leaders of our community (of course it can—and will—be said that those are not the leaders who are leaders now) praised these men until they couldn’t anymore, one resigning to be fired from his new job months after he took it—with great fanfare and good publicity here for his “move up.”   Weren’t we lucky to have had the help of such a masterful man!  Despite nothing much really changing in District classrooms (a few more kids in them because of budget cuts and money spent on chasing down truants), graduation rates rose and things seemed to be getting rosy when they weren’t really.  The current superintendent took over a district what suddenly seemed in crisis and, amazingly, within no time at all problems were being resolved in ways that no one could explain and, as the time came to begin the push for money for buildings, all was not only on the mend but the mend was far along advanced.  Wow!

As I said, when I was on Facebook regularly, I was receiving notes from all of the players in the region, from council people and school board members, from county commission members and concerned citizens asking me to get onboard and give praise to the better than Las Vegas schools being managed by a new team that, to me, somehow seemed to be left over from the old team whose leader had been booted at great expense.  The new leader was a part of that team!  But she was not really a part of that team, some tried to make me believe, but I couldn’t believe because, while that new leader knew how to preach a good sermon, had some charisma and some charm—considerably more than the departed—I couldn’t get a sense of what she was going to do better and she and those surrounding her, including her good friend, the chair of the Board of Trustees—weren’t letting on to what they were planning.  They were going to make things great again but what “great” was going to mean and how great was to be achieved, they would not let on.  And the schools and its management were regularly, still, being chastised by those who wanted a better show.

And that is what so many of those involved in the project discussed in the newspaper today are after, a good show, a good showing of effort to give the schools a good look by reducing the overcrowding that exists today and taking the temporary buildings off of campuses where they have been in use for so many years as to seem to be permanent fixtures.  Whole generations of students know of no other campus than the campus that has for classrooms modified cargo trailers.

That those trailers have been around for so long, that broken classrooms have not been fixed, some broken for many, many years, that now is the right time for a fix when it wasn’t before, raises a number of questions about the motives of those who are arguing so vehemently for a raise in taxes, in sales taxes now.

The article in the RGJ is really, if read properly, about cynicism of a profound type, about child neglect, and about the kind of greed that allows some to consistently allow schools and other agencies that exist to help people to disintegrate right in front of their eyes.  Damned!  How many years did students pile into classrooms a Hug to have their voices and their teachers’ drown out by a cheap heating and cooling system that produced more noise than comfort?  How many years has it been now that classrooms have been crowded?  How many years now have students been relegated to basements under gymnasiums (as at Wooster High School)?

And why the concern now?  Because there is potential for growth and those who will profit most from it now believe that that growth is dependent on a better looking schools.  The same people that for years have been encouraging citizens to vote against school funding measures–and the article makes it clear that these are people heading the finding fight—and who never ever come through with the kind of money needed to pay teachers well enough so that the ranks are filled with people who are truly highly competent educators.  The Chamber of Commerce, EDAWN, the business community—these groups have been against every tax ever proposed and they have made sure that schools and other help agencies never ever can receive what they need to do a decent job.

These people haven’t given a damn about the human toll of underfunding, always arguing that what is good for business is good for all.  But this equation is as bogus as they come and so is the measure that will help them get the schools they need to sell real estate or increase clientele.  These people will fight for a new regressive tax that will cost everyone equally no matter how unequal distribution of wealth might be, this inequality due in large part to the wages they pay to those who work for them, their partners and their friends.

They want a raise in the sales tax so that the burden is shared but the greatest share of what growth will produce will not go to the many who work the jobs that business provides in this region.  The growth agenda is about bringing in people and there is nothing of consequence being done to insure that those already here, those who will pay the sales tax that will pay for the brick work on the schools, will in anyway be rewarded.  In fact, as Sheila Leslie pointed out in an article published a few weeks ago in the Reno News and Review, the rank and file members of the community will be hurt, not helped.  The vitriol of the rebuttal written by an official of EDAWN tells me that she touched the nerve nerve, the nerve of those who are now for new taxes, who have consistently throughout the years put business before children, profits before citizen welfare, their own desires above everything else, these good citizens of the community who have controlled forever what happens and does not in the community, these people who should be voted out of the community so that a real community can come into being.

That said, the school buildings do need to be fixed and more built.  These terribly rotten people have made it so that the only way to get something for the schools—and something, by the way, far too little since it does not raise a cent toward raising the salaries of terribly underpaid educational professionals—is to raise money through a regressive sales tax.  The money is badly needed and kids will suffer as growth takes places and the school population grows with it.  Those who will benefit most from the conditions that will bring new population growth, of course, have received gracious and grand tax incentives to come our way and none of these new players have promised anything at all like good new good paying jobs for those who already live here and are being asked to pay for the kind of infrastructure improvements that growth will necessitate.

Sucker!  And desperate suckers at that.

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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