Nevada’s Next Chapter in Education

By Adam Laxalt

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. There are many important challenges I will address if I have the honor of serving as Nevada’s next Governor, but my top priority will be ensuring that all of Nevada’s children have access to the quality education they need and deserve.

For too long, Nevada’s education system has failed our kids. Countless students are never given a chance to succeed because they’re stuck in underperforming schools. Fortunately, the last few years have seen us take some crucial steps in the right direction. Under the leadership of Governor Brian Sandoval, Nevada has implemented a series of important, promising reforms that I believe have put us on the path to a brighter educational future.

But we can do more. I’ve worked with some of Nevada’s best teachers, administrators, policymakers and other education leaders — from both the public and private education realms — over the last few months to develop an education plan that will deliver on the promise of a great education for every Nevada student.

We must continue to move forward, not backward, in the areas where we’ve made great strides. In particular, Nevada policymakers have implemented a series of programs designed to address a critical area — improving early literacy. I’ll continue to champion these promising new programs. I pledge that under my leadership, these programs and our entire public education system will be properly funded — we will never go backwards from our current levels of education spending. I repeat: I will not scale back public education funding.

Just as we ensure Nevada education has the necessary resources, we must also make certain that those resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Today, our education system suffers from an unacceptable lack of transparency. It’s almost impossible for the average citizen — and even many policymakers — to get reliable information on education spending. That’s why I’ll create a first-of-its-kind, online “Education Checkbook,” which will increase accountability and provide Nevadans with complete and accurate information on how and where every education dollar is being spent.

We should recognize that every child is unique, with his or her own particular educational needs and challenges. Our goal, therefore, must be that every student graduates high school with the tools needed to succeed at the next level. That may be college, pursuing career-focused training, or finding a quality job. As part of my commitment to giving parents more choice in how and where their kids are educated, my plan expands access to Charter Schools, doubles our Opportunity Scholarship program, and supports Education Savings Accounts. I’ll also increase funding for Career and Technical Education programs, which do an incredible job of preparing students for career success.

Of course, improving education requires excellent teachers. They are on the front lines. Nevada is already blessed with many outstanding teachers, and they must get the acknowledgment and appreciation they deserve. When I asked a number of teachers for some of their bigger concerns, many cited the fact that they’re paying out of their own pockets for classroom expenses, without receiving reimbursement anywhere near the full costs. My plan calls for doubling the amount of costs that can be reimbursed (to $500 per year) and ensuring adequate funding is provided to cover all these reimbursements.

I’m also committed to developing new teacher talent in Nevada through a program I’ve introduced called “Tomorrow’s Teachers.” Under this plan, students would receive a scholarship to pursue a degree from a Nevada university or college in areas where we face critical teacher shortages, such as S.T.E.M., special education, and ELL. They agree upon graduation to teach for a set number of years in a Nevada district school. This program will go a long way toward addressing our crucial need to attract top talent into our classrooms.

And of course, we must do more to enhance school safety. Our children must always feel safe in school; we can't expect them to do well if they're afraid when they walk into the classroom. My Attorney General’s office recently convened a summit, bringing together law-enforcement and education officials from across the state, where we took some important steps toward identifying gaps in the system that could lead to a tragedy in one of our schools. Improving school safety will remain a top priority for me as Governor.

I applaud Nevada’s policymakers, especially Governor Sandoval, for the bold steps they’ve taken to bring much-needed reforms to Nevada’s education system. Now, it’s imperative that we build on those accomplishments, and continue to take education policy where it needs to go. I’m confident the solutions I’ve outlined will help ensure Nevada’s next chapter in education is our best yet. Our kids deserve nothing less.