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CCSD's Skorkowsky On Overcrowding, Underachievement

During his State of the State address, Governor Brian Sandoval promised $800 million in new funding to the state’s education system, as part of a larger tax bill that may or may not come to fruition.

Some Republicans lawmakers don’t share the governor's enthusiasm for raising taxes under any circumstances, but Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky told KNPR’s State of Nevada “it’s not about wants any more, it’s about basic necessities we need to keep our district running.”

Skorkowsky said lawmakers need to change the funding formula used to distribute money. Currently, 60 to 70 percent of education funding comes to Clark County, but it accounts for 74 percent of the population.

“So we are able to keep the funds that belong to Southern Nevada in Southern Nevada,” he said. “Being able to look at those allocations for those special populations that cost us so much to educate.”

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He also said the construction rollover needs to stay in place because he said it will allow the district to keep up with growth, noting if 32 elementary schools were built right now they would be filled and there would still be overcrowded schools.

It’s not just overcrowding but also upgrading and repairing older schools. Skorkowsky disagreed with Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore’s suggestion the district could get local air conditioning companies to repair units at schools “in kind.”

“We have as many 10 air conditioners down every day in 357 schools. I don’t think there is enough companies out there that can jump with that,” Skorkowsky said.

He said after going over the capital budget for the last nine months the school district needs $7 billion over next ten years to bring every school up the standards.

He also disagreed with Fiore’s assertion that the district was “top heavy with administration.” He said compared to other districts in the state and other large urban areas around the country, “we are the lowest when it comes to having administration in our building.”  

The superintendent says money isn’t just needed for building new schools and repairing old ones.

He supports the governor’s effort to fund Zoom Schools, which provide extra support for schools that have a high population of English language learners.

If the Legislature passes the governor’s budget, the district could double the number of Zoom Schools from 16 to 32.  

“We know that this system works and will roll up into the upper grades and will have a long term effect,” Skorkowsky said. “Education is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Lawmakers who may be reluctant to raise taxes for education have suggested schools in Nevada can be helped by increasing school choice through programs like school vouchers, charter school expansion and tax breaks for companies that provide private scholarships.

Skorkowsky told KNPR’s State of Nevada that expanding magnet and select schools have improved school choice.

“Choice is important for parents,” he said.

However, he is concerned about the impact some of the suggested programs could have on southern Nevada schools and students.

"I am always worried,” he said, “I worry about the reality of the situation and how well that student would be able to survive there and make that choice.”

The superintendent is not opposed to the effort the state is making to improve struggling schools through so-called achievement zones; however, he does want the district and the state to work together.

“I support the concept,” he said, “The goal is not to get to get schools into that system but to provide the support to stop them from getting there.”

During his State of the District address in January, Skorkowsky highlighted the issues on everyone’s minds.

Overcrowding, underachievement, accountability, funding – all criticisms about one of the habitually worst-ranked education systems in the country.

There were some high notes in this year's speech – mentorship programs, higher graduation rates among minorities, improved math and reading scores, but the list of problems dwarfs that of the accolades.

But during the conversation with KNPR’s State of Nevada, Skorkowsky said improvements are coming.

“You’re not going to instantly say, just like any business, ‘okay we were ranked 50th and now we’ve  jumped to number one or number two in a year’s time,’” Skorkowsky said, but he is optimistic and he said new rankings on several key factors will show how things are changing.

GUEST:

Pat Skorkowsky, Superintendent, Clark County School District.

Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.
Guests

Pat Skorkowsky, Superintendent, Clark County School District.

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