After five-plus hours of outrage, rancor, frustration, and sorrow from both sides of the dais, the Clark County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees agreed to an alternative budget proposal in hopes of staving off any further cuts to support staff or special education programs. The CCSD Board also proposed a financial review to approve next month to respond to public demands for increased accountability.

How did this happen?

While the State of Nevada has been investing more in K-12 education in recent years, the bulk of that new investment has gone into categorical funding for specific, targeted programs like ZOOM Schools, Victory Schools, student wellness, and gifted and talented student education (GATE). CCSD can’t use the categorical funding for its general fund budget. Meanwhile, the district has been struggling to fill a $200 million hole for special education programs for students with disabilities.
CCSD officials have blamed the state for insufficient funding. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and state officials have asked why CCSD didn’t reveal the severity of its budget crisis during the legislative session, when the state’s K-12 budget was being decided. The ongoing debate over who and what caused CCSD’s chronic budget deficits has led to growing public demand for some sort of comprehensive audit to figure out how the district’s funds are being spent.

WATCH LIVE: The Clark County School District Board of Trustees will consider budget cuts that have already sparked intense debate in the larger community. Watch tonight's board meeting with us, and stay tuned for ongoing education coverage.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Thursday, September 28, 2017

“38% of my salary was cut. […] We don’t make enough money to survive that. I don’t know how I can pay my bills!”
– Autumn Tampa, CCSD Support Staff

Photo by Andrew Davey

The Board of Trustees allowed for multiple periods of public comment during last night’s meeting. Early on, several CCSD support staff rose to explain how they can’t afford any more pay cuts and layoffs… And why the students can’t afford any more cuts, either. Support staffer Autumn Tampa implored upon the Trustees to look for an alternative.  “You have other options. You just have to be strong enough to take them.”

Just before the board meeting, Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) President Virginia Mills echoed these sentiments during her conversation with us.“88% of the cuts are borne on education support professionals,” Mills exclaimed. “They need to know that education support professionals are just as important as all other educators. We are the glue of the schools.”

“How are the children? The children are not fine.”
– CCSD Trustee Linda Young

After five hours of public comment and budget presentations, Trustee Linda Young lamented the $43 million in budget cuts that she and her fellow Trustees have already approved, then stated that she could not agree to any more cuts that target the very support staff who keep the schools running. “There’s unfairness here. It’s on the backs of support staff.”

The Clark County School District Board of Trustees resume their meeting after discussing a potential path forward on an independent audit. They are returning to discussion on the proposed budget cuts.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Young then pointed to the closure of the day program at Burk High School, an alternative school for students at risk of dropping out. She asked what the district is doing to help the very students CCSD is tasked with educating. “I don’t recall cutting a program almost in October, when children are in school. How are the children? The children are not fine.”

“Start at the top. Work your way down.”
– CCSD Trustee Carolyn Edwards

Photo by Andrew Davey

After another round of impassioned pleas from students, teachers, and support staff not to cut any further from CCSD schools, support staffer Andrew Calhoun floated the idea of district-wide furloughs during public comment to even out the hardship and avoid further cuts that could harm students. Trustee Carolyn Edwards later made a formal motion to pursue two mandatory furlough days for all CCSD staff, including top-level administrators. “Start at the top. Work your way down.”

Clark County School District Board of Trustees meeting continues. The board's now discussing idea of a universal furlough.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Edwards then amended her motion to clarify that administrative budgets, external contractors, and unfilled positions will still be cut, but that the furloughs should be able to avoid any further cuts to support staff. The motion ultimately passed unanimously, although the furlough alternative still depends on the unions agreeing to it, and legal counsel crafting a final furlough agreement that passes legal muster. Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky warned the Trustees that deeper cuts will be back on the table if the furlough agreement doesn’t come into place by October 26.

“If we can’t keep a clean house, how can we expect anyone else to be accountable?”
– CCSD Trustee Linda Cavazos

Photo by Andrew Davey

In addition to the budget check-up, the CCSD Board of Trustees will likely vote on Glenn Christenson’s proposal for a comprehensive financial evaluation. Trustee Linda Cavazos told us she understands the public’s call for transparency, and that a financial evaluation will help the district and the public understand how CCSD can better utilize the resources it has.

Cavazos explained that as a former educator and parent, she wants greater transparency as much as most everyone who spoke during public comment. “We don’t mind people looking at this. As a parent of five CCSD graduates, and as the grandparent of three students currently in CCSD, I myself want to know the answers to these questions, too.”
Cavazos added, “If we can’t keep a clean house, how can we expect anyone else to be accountable.” She and others in the district hope that a full review of finances will help the public, Governor Sandoval, and the Legislature realize why CCSD needs more funding for all its schools and students. Thus far, Sandoval has ruled out a special session this fall to provide emergency funding for CCSD.