Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

Faith Organizing Alliance Hosts Education Town Hall in West Las Vegas

On Tuesday, the Las Vegas based Faith Organizing Alliance held a community town hall at the Historic Westside School to discuss public education in Southern Nevada’s African-American communities. They invited a panel of experts to speak about what the state is doing to improve public education, and what still must be done to make education more equitable for communities of color.

“We were at an impasse, because they were playing a political game.”
– Assembly Member Dina Neal (D-Las Vegas)

This year, the Nevada Legislature had some big decisions to make on the future of public education. They mostly punted on directing additional marijuana tax revenue into public schools, and they only took a small step in changing the state’s K-12 funding formula, but they did make a big move in rejecting the far-reaching ESA school voucher program that conservatives had tried to establish in 2015.

Assembly Member Dina Neal (D-Las Vegas), one of panelists at the town hall, described how the voucher fight was a defining moment for the 2017 session. “We were at an impasse, because they were playing a political game.”

Another of the panelists, Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus, specifically called out State Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) for orchestrating a last-minute budget standoff that nearly sank the entire state budget in the final days of the session. “He put public schools at risk because he wanted vouchers,” Magnus said. “That’s unacceptable.”  

The Faith Organizing Alliance is hosting a community town hall on how Nevada can better ensure equity public education for African-American students.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

“We can’t continue to ask, ‘Where’s your homework?’, if we’re not asking, ‘Are your needs being met?'”
– Dr. Tiffany Tyler, Communities in Schools Nevada

What can Nevada do to ensure that all communities have strong schools? For Magnus, the answer is definitely not vouchers, which were mostly requested by parents in heavily white and affluent neighborhoods when the state was accepting ESA applications. “[Voucher advocates] want to take public funds away from public schools, and into private schools.” Magnus continued, “It is a way to privatize our public schools. It’s dangerous.”

The other panelists agreed, and they had plenty to say about what the state is doing to improve schools across the board. Communities in Schools Nevada CEO Tiffany Tyler called for a more comprehensive approach to education, one that addresses the poverty that puts many students of color at a great disadvantage. For Tyler, “We can’t continue to ask, ‘Where’s your homework?’, if we’re not asking, ‘Are your needs being met?'”

Neal explained how newer programs, such as Victory Schools, are being implemented to address the needs of impoverished communities, such as health care and food insecurity. “We are literally trying to link and pool together, so we can bring the resources [to families in need],” Neal said. She did, however, agree with Tyler and Magnus that the state must still do more to expand Victory Schools and provide more “wraparound services” to all students who need them.

“You’re their constituents. They work for you.”
– Annette Magnus, Battle Born Progress

As attendees were voicing their concerns on a number of issues, from the school to prison pipeline to reorganization of the Clark County School District, Tyler called on policymakers to get serious about lifting up all of Nevada’s public school students. “Until we connect the policies with the communities, we will continue to have challenges.”

Neal then gave some advice to the audience: Show up for school board meetings, lobby legislators, and be more active in the policy-making process. As Neal explained, “It’s one of those things where you have to show up.”

Magnus agreed. “You’re their constituents. They work for you.”

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