Education in Nevada

According to Morgan Quitno Press, a state and city ranking publication, the state of Nevada has been continuously ranked in the bottom five when it comes to education. Just recently, reports by the Las Vegas Sun have been released that 48% of high school sophomores failed the reading comprehension component of the Nevada Proficiency Exam. While school officials claim that this is due to a new format of the exam more tailored to reading comprehension than was before, this is still troubling news since Nevada’s youth consistently rank lower in examinations relative to other states. A major reason behind this is due to the fact that Nevada has generally given education funding a lower priority when determining the budget. Unfortunately, when the level of education tends to be low in a state, the economy tends to follow and be relatively weak or, at best, unstable. Education and the economy have a strong relation between each other. An educated workforce is the backbone and driving force of a thriving economy; however, states that insufficiently fund their departments of education tend to have less educated populations. As Nelson Fabian explains in Managing Editors Desk article, “A healthy economy is underpinned by a well-educated workforce. An educated workforce infuses inventiveness, productivity, research aspirations, quality products, efficiency, competitiveness, and sound decision making into an economy” (58). [MORE EVIDENCE].

The Atlantic, a magazine that focuses on politics and the economy, reported in a article the top states in America that have one of the best economies. The top five on their list included Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota. According to statistics from Measuring Up, a credible organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, those same five states also received in A- or higher grade in terms of completing college, where a high number of their population holds a bachelors degree. Measuring Up collects data from all fifty states in the country and grades each states education within different categories, including high school and college level. Nevada’s unstable economy coincides with their grade given by Measuring Up as they received in F in completion of college and high school. As a result of the 2007 recession that almost sent the United Sates’ economy into complete turmoil, many states were forced to make budget cuts to many crucial programs and Nevada was no exception. In fact, Nevada stood out as making some of the biggest cuts to education, both K-12 and higher; the state was even being profiled in the national media for the extremity of the cuts. The results of such dramatic cuts can only spell out catastrophe for an already precariously positioned economy. [HOW? EXAMPLES?] Nevada needs an educated workforce to help pull the weak economy back on its feet and that is why it is imperative to make education a top priority; this can be done through more state funding, restructuring the tax code, and making more grant and scholarships available to students pursuing higher education. See more: Colleges and Universities in Nevada

Education a Low Priority

By looking at numerous statistics, one can easily recognize Nevada’s poor performance in terms of education. Measuring Up collects data about high schools and colleges from each state and grades them appropriately in five different categories: preparation, participation, affordability, completion, and benefits. As of 2008, Measuring Up handed Nevada a grade of F in Participation, Affordability, and completion, while gaining a D in Benefits and C in Preparation. These graded categories are for K-12 and college education put together. [CITATION; only k-12 or college as well??] It is quite obvious that these are terrible scores, and from 2007 onward the state government has been cutting back on funding education due to the recession.

 

Not only was Nevada already doing poorly in education, but it is now putting itself in a very bad situation. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported in an article that proposed budget cuts of the 2011 year would mean a number of things to high schools, including: increase in class sizes, cutting sports programs, and eliminating courses. For higher education, things seemed to be much worse. University of Las Vegas, Nevada President Neal Smatresk recently explained to the LVRJ about possible outcomes from the proposed budget cuts. Smatresk stated that thirty-three degree programs that have about two thousand students enrolled in them would be eliminated. Smatresk also explains that during that process, one hundred twenty of the three hundred and fifteen jobs being eliminated would be faculty positions.

 

These are staggering numbers that can put Nevada’s education in a steep ditch. The proposed budget cuts will definetly not help Nevada increase the number of citizens that hold a bachelors degree, by which according the the U.S Census Bureau. The Census Bureau claims that Nevada ranks fourth fifth in “Persongs twenty five years old and over with a bachelor’s degree or more.”. This 2008 statistic shows that only 21.9 percent of Nevada’s population fits the stated category. [HOW? For example: higher student to teacher ratios per classroom; quality of education lower; etc etc.]To get a better understanding of why Nevada’s government has cut funds drastically for education, one needs to take a closer look into what were some of the causes of the recession.

Nevada’s Weak Economy

Since the recession hit in 2007, many people have lost their jobs in Nevada, and unemployment is high, particularly in Southern Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. The problem with this recession is, as Edward Knotek and Terry Stephen explain in, “How Will Unemployment Fare Following the Recession,” that “Perhaps the most interesting and unusual feature of these recessions is that unemployment continues to rise substantially well after the recessions ended and GDP had resumed growing” (10). This poses a problem, as across the country many cities are beginning to bounce back from the recession, Las Vegas is a good example of this.

 

Perhaps it can be the fact that Las Vegas’ economy consists as a one trick pony. In Las Vegas, which is Nevada’s most populated city, is primarily made of on type of economy, in which the city relies on tourism. The fact that a person can make a great living working in the hotel industry with no college education is somewhat worrisome because many people soon to follow the easier route and thus lowers the priority of getting a higher level of education. Without an educated population, there wont be many people that can contribute to the aforementioned ideas that Fabian was talking about, thus not being able to expand the economy. For those who do want to get a college education, some might realize that education is not a high priority in Nevada and thus they can possibly take their talents elsewhere to a different state. Nevada needs to prioritize education to great importance to keep students from migrating elsewhere. With an economy that heavily depends on tourism, Las Vegas still seems to be stuck in the recession while the rest of the country is recovering much better.

 

As a result of the recession, many people have been laid of permanently. Knotek and Stephen explain, “First, the pattern of layoffs has moved away from temporary layoffs in which worker expect to return to their old job when conditions improve, toward more permanent layoffs” (11). This is alarming news for many people who don’t have a college degree in that many who made a great living in Las Vegas without a degree are now jobless. As a result of citizens losing their jobs, many who were homeowners were unable to pay for their mortgage and thus lost their homes. This creates a big problem for many departments that Nevada’s government funds, including education.

More Funding Necessary

It’s a difficult position for state legislatures when determining priorities for the fiscal year; especially in Nevada, there never seems to be enough money to fund everything. However, recent governors [EVIDENCE] have made such tremendous cuts to education to offset shortages in other areas that this only serves to weaken the overall state economy and could have long lasting repercussions in terms of an undereducated work force. Companies might not want to invest in Nevada for its lacking educated work force [EVIDENCE]. [Also FIND EVIDENCE OF OTHER STATES THAT PRIORITIZE EDUCATION – TALK ABOUT WHY THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD FUND EDUCATION] According to “Sources of Funding for Schools,” by Penny Howell, Nevada is one of five states to receive more then sixty percent of funds from property tax (40). When the economy is running strong, funds will be abundant, but when the economy begins to fall apart like in recent years, funds are in trouble. Howell also includes an interesting table that illustrates how much the average school district received per pupil. According to Howell’s table, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Vermont were all states that received over eight thousand dollars per pupil. The following states also happened to receive above average grades according to Measuring Up. Nevada, in which received a little over six thousand, received a below average grading. This raises an interesting question in that if the state of Nevada prioritized education to be number one and gave it sufficient funding as most of their East Coast counterparts do, how could it affect its economy? [ANSWER THIS QUESTION! For example: better K-12 education, more motivation and opportunity for college, more education work force ]

New Sources of Funding (ONLY IF YOU NEED TO WRITE MORE; IF NOT, LEAVE THIS ALONE AND I’LL FIX IT)

Thus, Nevada needs to have a state income tax to help fund education instead of relying on property tax. [ELABORATE FOOL!!!]

Financial Aid Opportunities

Cost is another important factor and yet another vital reason that the state legislature needs to be more proactive in helping to fund education. One way to improve upon this problem is to improve Nevada’s government financial aid in terms of informing students and funds. Serge Herzog explains in “Measuring Determinants of Student Return VS. Dropout/Stopout VS. Transfer: A First-to-Second Year Analysis of New Freshmen,” the impact of the Millennium Scholarship that has had in education in Nevada (887). [GET RID OF THE ARTICLE TITLE!] The Millennium Scholarship is a ten thousand dollar scholarship where one needs to meet a B average in high school in which they can only obtain if they are a citizen of Nevada. Herzog states that ever since the Millennium Scholarship was introduced in 2000, student enrollment for colleges in Nevada has increased in ten percent (887). This data shows a highly relevant correlation between enrollment and funding, in which many people determine affordability when it comes to choosing whether they go to college or not. According to Measuring Up, Nevada received and F in affordability claiming “Poor and working class families must devote thirty seven percent of their income, even after aid, to pay for costs at public four-year colleges.” Therefore, Nevada’s government needs to increase scholarship and grant funds so those poor and working class families can send their kids to college without stressing about how they are going to pay for it. In “Finding Money on the Table: Information, Financial Aid, and Access to College,” the former President of the University of Southern California Academic Senate William Tierney and coauthor Dristan Venegas, who holds a PhD in Higher Education Policy Analysis, explain state that, “Recent research suggests that low-income high school students do not prepare for college because they believe a postsecondary education is expensive and unaffordable” (363).

There is evidence that the Millennium Scholarship has had a positive affect on education in Nevada, and to continue on improving, it is obvious that Nevada’s government needs to increase its funds. Also, Serge Herzog shows an interest table where he states that middle-income students are twice likely at risk to dropout the upper income students (901). Herzog concludes “factoring in unmet need modifies the propensity of income background as a retention determinant, underscoring the importance of considering a student’s outstanding financial obligation” (901). While students need to get more financial aid from Nevada’s government, many are still not educated enough on how to receive financial aid. One being that the eligibility requirements change every year without students realizing it (Tierney and Venegas 378). Many high school seniors are either not meeting the new grade point average requirements or not taking the necessary courses to obtain the Millennium Scholarship. Same goes with College students in Nevada, where there would be a new grade point average to remain eligible for the scholarship without anyone realizing it. Therefore many students either lose the opportunity to obtain the Millennium Scholarship or lose it because they were not properly educated about eligibility rules. Tierney and Venegas state, “Accessing accurate information about current requirements is difficult. Only a visit to the state treasurer’s website or a well-trained school counselor can give the most up-to-date results” (378). This is a big problem that the government can easily solve if they just made information about the Millennium Scholarship easier to access.

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