LAS VEGAS -- Education reform plans by the two leading candidates for Nevada Governor seem strikingly familiar to officials with the Clark County School District. While they're flattered the candidates have adopted some of their ideas, they're equally frustrated by the lack of new material.
No one's accusing the candidates of copying someone else's homework. But proposals drafted by Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval more than resemble some federal, state and local initiatives already in schools. Educators leaders say there is nothing wrong with expanding on good ideas except when you ignore the price tag.
While school officials agree education reform is need, they say the ABC's of education reform read more like an elementary math problem. Proposals by the state's gubernatorial candidates -- plus no new funding -- equals a zero sum gain for Nevada students.
"You can't stretch the resources any further than where they are right now. So having the word reform by itself without a real plan to go with it, really is not the answer for us," said Assistant Superintendent Charlene Greene, CCSD Support Services.
Officials still smarting from $140 million in cuts to education this year have little appreciation for reform without revenue. Especially with equally devastating budget shortfalls expected for the next school year.
"You could cut music. You could cut sports. You could cut transportation. From a very theoretical standpoint there could be cuts. I don't think the community wants those cuts or would stand for them being cut," said Superintendent Walt Rulffes, CCSD.
Leading candidates Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval rely in part on cost savings through privatization to fund their reform plans. But district officials tell the I-Team that, so far, private companies have not been able to offer school support services at a lower price.
"We've looked at those things in food services and particularly transportation. You know what, they couldn't do it cheaper than we were doing it," said Sheila Moulton, CCSD trustee.
"I don't see anything particularly new in the plans. I see us doing a lot of the things that are already in those plans now. The question is expansion of those plans," said Carolyn Edwards, CCSD trustee.
Like the empowerment school model that provides school autonomy over budgets, staffing and curriculum. Already in place in 30 Clark county schools, Reid proposes applying his version to all Nevada campuses within five years.
"If you've got a quality principal that understands and knows curriculum and standards and alignment, that's one thing. But like I said we've got to help some of those administrators be able to take on all of that additional responsibility," said Moulton.
Under performing administrators and teachers -- under Sandoval's plan -- would be subject to termination.
And both men propose an end to longevity pay in favor of pay for performance incentives.
"People don't recognize that we're heavily regulated in certain areas. We have union contracts that restrict certain activities in favor of employee rights, we have state rules, we have federal regulations that go far beyond the funding that the federal government provides," Rulffes said.
Borrowing from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Sandoval suggests school choice for students who's schools fail to meet national standards. Transportation included.
"Out of the 170,000 families we offer choice to, only 2% take the choice and that's with transportation. So it's a very interesting dilemma to offer it and then have parents not take it because the majority of them are satisfied with the school," Green said.
An additional 10 percent of Clark County students choose choice through zone variances, magnet schools and career and technical academies.
Like the candidates, district leaders support expansion of those programs of college prep courses and of class size reduction efforts. But they insist implementation relies on that elementary math problem.
"It seems so trite but it's about money. Like it or not it is about revenues," said Moulton.
District leaders have long complained about funding disparities between the north and the south. Per pupil funding in Washoe County is currently $100 higher than that in Clark County, according to the State Department of Education. The district plans to ask lawmakers to close the gap and hopes the new governor will support those efforts