About 35 teenagers and teachers from White Pine High School left Ely about midnight Monday and made the six-hour trip to speak at a Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee. The students, part of a group called “Ely Kids Kount,” wore shirts that read “Defend education — Don’t defund education.” The day missed in the classroom counted as a school activity.
For K-12 schools, the state’s base per-pupil spending would drop from $5,098 this year to $4,945 next fiscal year; and increase by just $1 to $4,946 in the second year of the budget cycle. Gibbons’ proposal provides nearly $2.3 billion, or 37 percent of the total budget, to elementary and secondary public schools. That’s down 2.6 percent, or nearly $62 million.
Shania Cook, a White Pine High junior, said that she never guessed she and fellow students “would be here today defending our education” and that budget cuts threaten activities such as sports, drama, band and yearbooks.
“They’re not just there for fun, but these classes motivate us to get up in the morning and brighten our day,” Cook said. “It’s like taking away your coffee forever. Without it, many adults will be dead-tired and sometimes grumpy.”
Cook also asked lawmakers whether they had children, reminding them that “the teacher of your child definitely has had a college degree,” and asked them to remember high school electives they enjoyed taking.
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the budget subcommittee chairwoman, said it was important that students drew attention to educational needs, adding, “Thank you for putting a face to all of these issues.”
Sam Hanson, a White Pine High government teacher who accompanied the students, said that unless current education funding is maintained, his school could lose two or three teachers from a staff of 22 for 400 students. He also noted that his classroom VCR and television haven’t worked since 2006 and that he has only 55 textbooks for 65 students.
Richard Clark, a government teacher at Reno High School, also told lawmakers to stop the education budget cuts, saying 6 percent pay cuts proposed by the governor would be “devastating” to his family, especially since his wife also teaches.
“My wife and I understood the financial realities of becoming teachers,” Clark said. “However our pay is not based on how much we sell, or how good business is doing. It is based on you, our elected officials.”