Communal Education: More than Money
By Seth Love
On July 11th, Contact 13 Investigation reported on a local incident concerning the Renaissance Academy, a charter school here in the valley. According to a recent Attorney General investigation into this school, over $1.2 million have been ‘misplaced’; all of it tax-payer dollars, and all of it credited to this school for various learning equipment: laptop computers, projectors, I-pads, big-screen TV’s, etc. Yet, much of the money has not been accounted for in this ongoing investigation by the Attorney General.
Yet although the misplacement of over a million dollars is concerning for the school districts of Nevada (having an already burdened budget), there is a hint of optimism that must not be overlooked. As the article by Darcy Spears says within the first line, “Charter school enrollment in Nevada is up 85-percent over the last school year.” It would seem that our local community has proclaimed some sort of consensus regarding education within our valley.
What is a charter school? A charter school is an organization piloted by a group of educators (usually) with a sponsor backing them, most often the local school district. The organization of educators signs a charter that conveys what services they will provide (higher scores in reading comprehension in what might be their target age, grades 3-5, for example), and the sponsor agrees to fund the school so long as the services are provided for. This relates directly back to the problem the Renaissance Academy had; there was ambiguous, near vague language dictating what exactly Roy Harding, the seemingly degreeless start-up administrator for the Renaissance Academy, was supposed to accomplish by agreeing to educate the pupils of Las Vegas. At the very least, now our city has more of an outline of how a charter school should act within our community. But, of course this is not the only step; as with any education or dealing with any young mind, special attention should be taken, and not just in the charter school climate.
The community itself should be involved in that which keeps a community fueled: the youth and what their minds have yet to create.
To fully understand this implication, we must look back a few years to an environmental disaster we are still recovering from today: Hurricane Katrina. Those southern lands were ravaged by a turmoil that shook our nation; and, with most of the previous public school system destroyed within New Orleans during the hurricane, the school system was forced to shut-down, and the teacher union with it. New Orleans needed to rebuild, and basically from scratch. However, the school district saw an opportunity already present within national education, albeit not completely grasped. Charter schools had already existed within New Orleans specifically since 1997, and nationally since 1991, but there seemed to be an apparent air of these organizations only being side-help for education, if you will; they could never take on the full brunt of a community’s educational needs. Nevertheless, after much law reworking, Charter schools became the primary means of education for News Orleans—elementary up through secondary education—and these proclamations of educational diversity have since flourished, drastically improving the education of the students of New Orleans, and even rejuvenating the hope of its community. Although an action may appear to be negative, detrimental to a society (Katrina nearly wiping out New Orleans as we know it), negatives also tend to highlight what should have been a primary concern in the first place: education.
Although we are a desert and the likelihood of an environmental disaster other than drought completely debunking our community is low, should we wait for some sort of other-worldly event to happen before we redesign how education might be improved here in our valley? That does not make very much sense. So, with Nevada ranking as 50th in education according to a national survey done by Education Weekly back in 2010, perhaps Nevadans should take a lesson from a catastrophe elsewhere, and then look to change a school district that apparently does not work. And perhaps, even then, we can acknowledge an improvement in our valley’s education, although one with a pretty high (monetary) price (well, pretty low if you compare to the 81 billion dollars of damages in New Orleans).
Although there was monetary set-back this week with Las Vegas’ education, this postponement links our community to, optimistically, a hopeful future. We have had but a very, very minor hindrance —actions involving inanimate monies, not human lives. Let us not make the same equivalent exchange our fellow Americans had to make down in New Orleans; let us rise and not wait for change to happen for us.