Education

To start, I have released my childhood report cards.  They can be found in the "Documentation/Proof" tab.  This will show you exactly where I struggled and where I succeeded.  Further supporting my claim that I know where to help when it comes to our education system.

Nevada has made great strides in education over the years, but there is still A LOT of work to do.  While Nevada has gone up from 50 to 40 overall, it is important to understand the two numbers that factor into the overall number.  Nevada higher education (college) ranks number 9 in the nation which is very good.  The more concerning number is in K-12 education - where we rank 48.  I know all too well why we are at the bottom and I have what it takes to bring that number up.

Looking back at my K-12 education in the Washoe County School District, the numbers really do not surprise me.  Granted, I have nothing to compare our education system to, but I know all the areas I personally struggled in.  I strongly believe that I know the exact reasons we are one of the last in the country. 

Since Nevada has been leaning blue, our overall number has slowly risen.  If you look at the list, many democratic states top the list as best in education.  Much like how the economy will not be fixed tomorrow, nor will our education system.  Once the damage is done, it takes time to rebuild and fix these things.  If we keep changing leadership, we can only expect the process to continue getting delayed.  These delays should not surprise anyone with leadership turnover within our school districts.  We don’t give anyone enough time to make an impact before chasing them out. 

Part of the problem in so many areas is that we use Band-Aids to fix our infrastructure instead of scrapping and rebuilding it.  What may have worked 30 years ago isn’t going to work the same today.  There are many more resources available to us and information needs to constantly be updated with the changing times.  You have to wonder how much we are teaching that is no longer applicable for the time we are in.  The world constantly changes and we need to ensure that our curriculum updates with it every year.  My suspicion is that we don’t review the outdated material and we add on to it.  It all seems pertinent, but is it really necessary?  Someone who started teaching 20 years prior will likely think it is still necessary because that is what they have been programmed to teach for the last 20 years.  A new teacher would be more open to new ideas since they haven’t already been programmed and are more familiar with the current needs for a time that they most likely grew up in.  Like they say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  If we continue on the path of constantly adding new material without eliminating/updating the old, kids will continue to be overwhelmed with an overload of unnecessary information that will completely hinder their learning experience.  We are given a timeframe that children are forced to learn and we need to ensure that we are making the most effective and best use of that limited amount of time. 

Sadly, due to constant budget shortfalls and staffing shortages, nobody has the bandwidth to fix the urgent problems within our education system.  Therefore, we are stuck with temporary fixes that never actually get fixed.  Until our school districts are fully staffed with extra bandwidth, there will never be any change regardless of who is in office or running individual school districts.  We have likely been using outdated material for decades and that is fully reflected in our numbers.  What we need is a well-funded investment in education across the country.  We all know Republican’s “conservatives” will never spend the money necessary to rebuild our systems.  Another reason why we need a Democrat representing Northern Nevada.  A party that is willing to spend the money and has a solid record with primarily blue states topping the education list. 

I was a student in the Washoe County School District from Kindergarten through 12th grade.   I graduated from Damonte Ranch High School in 2007.  While my graduation was nearly 15 years ago, I still have an impeccable memory and I doubt much has changed if we are still near the bottom in education.  Personally, I struggled in many areas in school while also excelling in many others.  I graduated from high school with a 3.2 GPA.  For the most part, I did very well throughout my K-12 education.  I did struggle in many areas and there were occasions where I failed classes as seen on my transcripts.   Fortunately, I know why I didn’t do well in certain classes and remember it all very clearly.  While I haven’t finished my college degree, this may look like a shortfall to many.  If you look at my background though, you will see that I am quite intelligent and have proven ability to do quite well in school.  I personally know why I struggled in many areas and what it takes to succeed in our K-12 schools.  What better person is there to fix it than someone who has experienced the true ups and downs of our education system?  Someone who has proven ability with strong success in education despite many challenges.  Someone who has managed to obtain a job that typically requires a masters degree or higher without actually having any form of a degree.  I may not have a fancy piece of paper (yet), but I know how to make the most of what I have to work with.  Sometimes the ones who struggle the most are the ones who can make the biggest difference.  People with fancy degrees aren’t always the ones with all the answers.  Sometimes the answers are in the last place we think to look.

From what I remember nearly 15-30 years ago, I think the following changes need to be implemented immediately if they haven’t already:

  1. Educators need to understand that kids don’t always know how to respond to different questions.  They haven’t had that many life experiences yet and their vocabulary isn’t fully developed.  ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions should typically be asked when you’re trying to understand a child's learning style and why they are struggling.  “I don’t know” needs to be a perfectly acceptable answer and should be taken seriously.  A child struggling to answer or who isn’t embarrassed to say it - likely really doesn’t know why they’re struggling.  In many cases, they probably think everyone else is smarter than they are.  I know I did.  Open ended questions aren’t the best unless you have already asked some clarifying ones to ensure you are both on the same page.

    • For example, in 5th grade, I received my first failing grade in social studies.  It was because I wasn’t completing the current event assignments that were due each week.  We also had to present them to the class and 95% of the time I wouldn’t do them.  At the end of the week, we would take a 10 question quiz based on the current events students presented.  I more often than not failed them and I think the highest grade I ever received on these quizzes was a C. ​

    • Had someone asked me why I wasn’t doing these current events, I probably would have said, “I don’t know.”  The response from the adult would likely be, “I don’t know is not an answer.”  At that point, I had a general idea of why I wasn’t doing them, but I didn’t know how to express that reason.   The real reason I wasn’t doing them was because news articles were super boring and when I read them, I wouldn’t retain a thing.  I could have taken a stab at it, but then I would have to present it to the class and look even dumber if I presented it wrong and misinterpreted the information.  I simply chose not to do them most of the time to avoid these struggles.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have likely answered, “I am not retaining the information I read and I am too embarrassed to present to the class because I have no clue what I just read.  If another student read the same article, they could easily point out the flaws in my presentation and I would look even more dumb.”   But what 5th grader speaks that clearly?  Had the teacher or my foster parents asked more direct yes or no questions, they would have been able to get to the bottom of it and helped me.  They could have asked questions like, “are you playing instead of doing your homework?”  NO.   “Are you having trouble finding an article?”  This response would have been different because I would look for an article, but when I would find nothing interesting to grab my attention.  I would then give up and just not do it.  So technically, yes I was having trouble finding an article, but also no because I knew where to look.  The questions would need to keep going until they found the real reason I wasn’t doing them.  I didn’t know how to express the real problem at that time.  If I knew how, I would have asked for help sooner.  Sometimes the adult needs to realize that not all kids know how to express their struggles and it requires more effort on their part.

  2.  Note taking​

    • One of the biggest wastes of time was when teachers would lecture and make us copy notes from the overhead projector.  I retained NOTHING when a teacher would lecture and make us take notes concurrently.  I was the type of kid who couldn’t listen and write at the same time and I imagine most kids were like this, but I can’t speak for them.  If I’m right, why are we wasting valuable time like this?  Why do it if students clearly can’t follow both?  This was a common issue for me from 7th through 12th grade.  A better solution would have been to give the students notes through print or email.  Teachers should be working with their students to ensure they are grasping the information.  They should play games and make learning fun so that students can retain the information in different ways.  Feeding them notes that they can make on their own from reading the book is very wasteful of time that could be better spent through lecture and interaction. ​

  3. Reading aloud in class

    • To me, reading aloud in class was a big waste of time.  I had difficulty staying focused, especially when kids would take turns reading a section of a textbook.  The thing is that kids read at different speeds and struggle in different areas when it comes to reading.  When you have a kid stumbling over their words and reading too fast or too slow, it is very easy for other kids to lose interest and not follow along.  Many may get bored because they can read faster and it doesn’t help listening to another kid fumble so much on the reading.  I know this wasn’t only me who would lose my place because it was very common that students would be called to read and then shamed for not following along.  I find that reading on your own holds you accountable where you are forced to focus and have full control of how you retain the material.  There are much better uses of time than reading aloud and I think it would be more useful giving students textbook reading time in class each day.  Once they reach middle school, reading needs to be moved to homework with a simple “follow along” study guide.  NOT a study guide where students have to dig for the answers.  It should be made to ensure they catch the important parts of the material.  Additionally, they should be required to ask questions about the reading at the end of the guide.  The teacher should then either answer them privately on the graded assignment OR address them to the class without pointing out the individual who asked the question.  We all have questions of some sort and we are never forced to ask them.  How do we learn if we are too shy to ask and nobody encourages us to ask?  We live in a tough world where people are looked down upon for asking dumb questions.  Finding a private and convenient way to ask questions is important.  Also, teachers should be the ones personally grading the study guides to ensure they answered correctly!!  It isn’t as big of a deal if the study guide is easy to follow in the book.  However, if a student has to dig for answers, the teacher should be grading it themselves to ensure correctness so they know students are using material with CORRECT answers.  Overall, we need a new approach when it comes to having kids read and retain information.  I highly doubt I was the only one who struggled with some of these things.

  4. Homework on holidays and weekends

    • This is ridiculous and should not be allowed unless it is easy and/or very minimal.  I remember in middle and high school, teachers would load work on regardless of if it were a holiday or a weekend.  Kids need a break and need time to absorb information without being constantly overwhelmed.  Aside from reading requirements, anything assigned should be quick and easy so they can enjoy their time off.  Much like adults who work, kids spend most of their day in school and need a break at the end of the day.  Overloading kids with information and not giving them a break is not going to help our education system move forward.

    • Some homework is understandable.  Easy homework - no big deal.  Reading is fair and should always be encouraged.  A project that can only be done as homework, yes, that’s fair.  But to send kids home weekend after weekend and holiday after holiday with homework needs to end.  Just like adults need a break from work, kids need a break from school.  Not just in the summer months.

    • Because of my anxiety and OCD, I would ALWAYS worry I was forgetting an assignment that would be due the following class.  As if I forgot to write my homework down or the teacher would add on something last minute.  For these reasons, I STILL worried I would be forgetting something on the weekends and I would get a failing grade the following week.  It would have been nice to go into the weekend with a clear mind not having to worry about homework or the potential of forgetting something.  Then panicking that I would have to take a zero if I forgot something.  This could just be my own mental health problem, but it is another reason why I think this way about homework.

  5. Syllabus

    • I think that our education system needs more organization – starting with teachers helping students stay organized.  Much like in college, give students a syllabus with all the due dates and assignments for the term.  It helps to have something solid to reference instead of trying to keep track of everything that gets thrown at you.  It is a complete waste of the limited class time for both the student and the teacher to have to go over these things each class.  Some may say it teaches responsibility, but handing your work in on time accomplishes the same mission.  I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was having to wonder if I was forgetting an assignment that was added last minute.  Again, this could have just been my OCD working overtime with my anxiety, but it would have been nice to not have to constantly worry that I was forgetting something.  Personally, I think any adhoc assignments should be counted as extra credit if it isn’t on a syllabus, but that’s just my opinion.  

    • Planners are great and all, but they aren't a good use of limited instruction time.  Every second counts, but there really isn't time to use planners effectively.  Provide a detailed syllabus and move on.  

  6. School doesn’t have to be difficult

    • Just because most of us hated school and thought it was hard and boring, it certainly doesn’t have to be.  It’s 2022 and we have far more resources than we did when our educational programs were initially created.  We have the ability to make learning fun and make it so kids actually want to attend school.  There is nothing that says school has to be boring or difficult.  It is time we use the resources available to make it so kids actually enjoy going to school.  School is what we make of it and we have the power to make it into whatever we want.  People just need to actually want it and be willing to roll with the changes. 

  7. Information Retention

    • One of the major problems with our education system is that kids aren’t held accountable when they fail.  Essentially, we tell them, “aww, too bad; better luck next time.”  We then move on and keep pushing forward into new material.  How does this benefit a kid who clearly didn’t learn the material in the first place?  Naturally, you would expect them to either fail or do poorly on future material without understanding and passing the prior material.  This alone could answer numerous questions as to why we are last in education.  Kids should be passing tests with a B or better.  What is the point of teaching the material if students aren’t required to pass a test on the material?  It is a complete waste of taxpayer money and is material that either needs to be rebuilt or removed from the curriculum altogether.  Everything on these tests should be things kids MUST know to succeed in life.  If we fail them and act like it isn’t a big deal, why are we teaching them these courses anyway?  Are they not important?  If not, we should probably get rid of them.  Lastly, if a student fails a test, let them retake the test until they pass it.  Switch up the tests if necessary.  Just because we have always given testing a single shot, it doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way.  Help students actually learn the necessary material so they don’t get left behind like so many do. ​

    • Personally, I think much of what we learn is important.  It is sad that we don’t expect more from students and make sure they actually know the material we are teaching them before moving on.  Testing should be taken seriously and I really don’t think that it is.  It isn’t like a random assignment that helps prepare for a test.  It IS the test and should be looked at as such.  When a student doesn’t pass a test, we should actually be concerned about it.  A test should only contain things kids NEED to know in life.  If they don’t NEED to know it and it won’t help them in the future, why are we even testing on it?   More importantly, is it even worth teaching?  I remember often seeing some of the most useless questions on tests and I couldn’t see how it would help me in the future.  Whether I knew it or not, I still played along and did as I was supposed to.  The fun and cutesy stuff should be left for the class assignments.  In the end, students should be able to pass a test and feel like they actually learned something from the course.  Teachers should be able to look at their students and feel like they did their job and feel good that their students are passing.  This means that their teaching is effective.  I think part of the problem here is that teachers are probably micromanaged and overloaded so that they cannot be as effective.  Just my guess, but if I am right - this needs to change.  

  8. Testing

    • As mentioned in my last section, testing needs to be taken more seriously.  They shouldn’t contain cute little questions.  The sole purpose of a test is to reinforce and ensure that students are retaining important information that will help them succeed in life.  Asking dumb questions like, “Who was the 10th president?” Or “What year did George Washington die?”  These are great to know, but who would remember these answers?  Are these specific answers really necessary to know in life?  Asking things like, “what is the 2nd amendment to the constitution?”  Or “What year was the declaration of independence signed?”  Those are both very important things to know and should be retained.  When you look at questions like those and you fail a student for getting them wrong, how is that going to benefit a student in the future?  More specifically, when you fail a student and keep moving forward without them passing questions like that, do you really think they are being set up for future success?  Those latter questions are important things to know in life and failing a test with solid questions like that should be seen as unacceptable.  We should expect much more from testing and it is very concerning that we don’t take this more seriously. ​

    • Testing should have CLEAR questions and should NOT have “cute” answers that are clearly not right.  Challenge the mind but ensure the questions are CLEAR and the answer options are CLEAR.  It should be CLEAR that there is only one answer to the question.  I know I say clear a lot here, but I have seen so many test questions that are written in a form that is open to interpretation.  Yes, this may be the point, but the goal is to ensure the student retained the information.  It isn’t to trick them or see how they interpret the question.  The goal is to make sure they know it and move on.  The student should feel like they learned something and making them second guess if they have the right answer is useless.  If they studied and retained the material, then there can only be one answer and it should be very obvious which one it is.  Clear question and answer options (multiple choice) are important.  Trick questions can be okay, but make sure they are good (for learning) tricky and not cute tricky.

    • All testing material should constantly be reviewed.  Are students getting the same answers wrong?  Perhaps those questions need to be changed or reworded.  Are all questions still relevant?  Do we need to add or remove anything?  Why aren’t students passing with an “A” or “B?”

    • Produce a new test each year!  This hopefully doesn’t need to be mentioned, but I am going to mention it anyway. 

  9. Student Stress

    • You never know what students are going through at home.  All kids have different events that can happen in their lives and it isn’t like anyone is going to let you know.  The parents likely prefer to keep things private and the kids likely know not to talk about them.  Try and be compassionate and understanding as you may never know exactly what is going on in a child’s head, despite thinking you do.  I can assure that not a soul knew everything I kept bottled up as a child.  I held onto very intense stuff that I was not about to share with anyone.  ​

    • From personal experience, I was constantly stressed.  So stressed that I passed middle school with failing grades.  I was constantly getting in trouble at my foster home and I was ready to be done with it all.  I simply just wanted out and didn’t care where I went.  I also spent time transitioning into other homes and I stopped caring about my schoolwork.  My 8th grade GPA was around a 1.0 and I was still passed onto 9th grade.  My high school was another whirlwind of problems, but nothing like my 8th grade year.  Factors not known to anyone else could be the sole reason a student is failing. 

    • Being constantly worried I was forgetting an assignment always stressed me out.  Likely tied to my OCD and anxiety, so this could have just been a personal issue.  Still worth noting.

    • I was constantly worrying that kids would find out I was in foster care as this was a heavily guarded secret.  Primarily because I just wanted to blend in.  This was likely the biggest stress factor over anything else believe it or not.  I carried many secrets as a child and it is a miracle I made it through school as well as I did.   This was one of the many secrets I didn't even tell my foster parents, psychologist, or social worker that I didn't want people to know.  I constantly hoped they wouldn't let it slip to others.  Even though the teachers had an idea about it, I was constantly in fear that they would let it slip to the class or someone would figure it out.  Especially because I was required to have a "note" sent home every day that other students didn't have to have.  Again, it was constant stress trying to keep this a secret and there was nobody I felt I could share the fact that it stressed me out.  I likely didn't know how to express myself and/or was too embarrassed to even tell anyone that it bothered me.  So like everything else in my life at the time, I suffered in silence.

  10. Random Call Outs

    • Students may have untreated anxiety or ADHD and it can be embarrassing when being called out unexpectedly.   Is it really necessary?  It is like publicly shaming a student so the rest of the class can see how “dumb” they are.  This was something that would stress me out to where I would have tense legs and sweat rolling down my back because I was so anxious from the humiliation.  This likely wasn’t the intention from the teacher or what students were actually thinking, but this is exactly how I felt when being called out like that.  There is a right time and a wrong time to do this sort of thing.  Teachers should know very well when it is the wrong time and especially the wrong student.  In my situation, it was often because I wasn’t retaining the reading material and would panic because I would be expected to have an answer that I didn’t have.  Every situation is different and while there are times that this is helpful for learning, intentionally calling out kids to catch them distracted or knowing they won’t know the answer is embarrassing.  Even though the teacher may have helped me with the answer, because I was so stressed, I wouldn’t hear a thing they said because my mind would still be in panic mode.  Doing this to a student essentially feels like other peers are thinking, “hey, look at that idiot - he doesn’t know the answer and must be stupid.”  Again, this is likely not what other students were thinking, but it felt like they were.  Calling a student out enough times and them not being able to answer is indeed noticeable by peers.  I was very well aware of what kids were the smart ones, what ones were average, and what ones were slow.  You pick up on these things as a child and kids are more observant than one may think.​  I was likely much more observant than most kids and I often knew exactly what was going on with each student.  This may have been my inner adult, but I definitely knew much more than I should have about other students.

  11. Special Education could have a better approach

    • I was never in this class, but I knew exactly what it was and why students were in there.  I remember the resource teachers would always come and get these kids and then bring them back and forth to class.  We all knew what was going on.  I don’t think these kids were ever treated differently (that I know of), but does the entire class really have to put the pieces together and know about it?  Let these kids have some privacy.  Some of these kids are already stressed enough having to be in the class and I wouldn’t be surprised if their experience was further exacerbated by the class understanding their situation.  Again, kids experience stress just like anyone else.  They likely aren’t going to tell you about it because many of them likely don’t know how to express what they are feeling.  How are these kids going to learn better when they are constantly humiliated?  Again, I don’t think they were treated differently, but kids always know who the fast and who the slow learners are.  I can still name the ones as far back as first grade.  It isn't right to make their struggles as noticeable to everyone else.  

  12. ALL STUDENTS LEARN DIFFERENTLY

    • We should be using different learning tools to ensure ALL students learn.  Not just catering to the students who can retain lecture information or follow notes.  We should be playing games that help retain information while interacting with it - or doing fun projects/activities that actually encourage learning.   Reading alone should be encouraged more while lecturing and movies should be used as a listening tool.  The biggest problem here is we focus so much on reading and lecturing and it leaves out the students who would benefit from actual interaction.  Even online games could be fun and easy homework.  There needs to be more done to help reinforce information by catering to all learning styles.  It may sound complicated, but there is always a way to do just about anything.  Often times it requires creativity and thinking outside of the box.​

  13. Study Habits

    • This may sound odd, but I never quite learned how to study and I didn’t quite understand my learning style.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  I often took my tests cold turkey and hoped for the best outcome based on retention.  My brain was overloaded and I had very little interest in even trying to study.  In theory, I shouldn't have needed to do much if the education system was working.  All of the information I was required to retain made this feel like a lost cause.  Studying should be minimal if teaching is effective.  It should only be needed to reinforce information.  If a student has to go back and teach themselves a full course at the end, then why bother going to class everyday?

    • Teachers should advise their students on good study habits.  Help them!  For example, I primarily focus on vocabulary and make sure I understand all terms.  That alone makes the biggest difference when I take a test.   Simple advice like that can help tremendously. 

    • Another helpful study habit is reviewing prior tests and quizzes.  Making sure I understand the tests, why I got something wrong, and what the CORRECT answer is.  Each course is different so study habits could change among courses.  Giving tips and pointers would be helpful so students know how to study.  I never really knew how aside from the obvious and therefore I literally almost never studied for anything.  If I knew then what I know now.... 

    • If you make a student fill out a study guide, make sure they have the correct answers.  There is nothing worse than studying for a test using information you wrote down incorrectly.

    • Math – this could be a million times easier for students.  Give them a list of all formula’s for the course at the beginning of the term.   This gives them an idea of what they need to learn and understand to prepare for the final.  So often we get all sorts of random formula's thrown at us throughout a term and it gets difficult to differentiate what formula to use for a given problem.  By the time the final comes, can we even remember how to use the formula or which one to use?  I would have benefitted greatly had I been given an "all up" visual of all formula's so I would be prepared for what I needed to learn along the way.  If there were an easier way to remember the formula's, many more students would struggle less in math.  Giving the formula's up front isn't going to hurt anyone.  The teacher will still have to show the student how to use each of them for it to be effective.  There needs to be a better way to teach these courses.  I loved math and did very well in it.  I just know what would have made it significantly easier and less overwhelming.  I am a very visual person and need to see everything in one place.  From there I can process it all in my own way.  

  14. Aleks

    • I used this platform in my early college years and LOVED it!  This was a fun way to learn math and I actually looked forward to using it.  It was like a video game I would intentionally make time for and nerd out on every night.  I highly recommend it and wish more schools would use it.

    • Using this program WITH a teacher would be the ideal solution here.  This way, students can learn from both a teacher and a software program concurrently.  The teacher can still teach difficult areas and help struggling students.  I can’t say enough good things about this program and I would love to see it utilized in public schools.  

    • I love numbers so I may be in the minority with this program, but I truly think it would be fun if students have it as a learning aid.  It would work as one of those "fun" ways I mentioned earlier that would allow students to interact with the material.​

Part of the reason we are using these inundated programs is because of a major staffing shortage.  Nobody has time to go through and pick apart these programs.  There are likely things that were important years ago that aren’t relevant today.  Instead of taking those things out (because who has time) we keep adding more on top and it is making classes take longer and teachers trying to cram so much in before the end of term.  Students are overloaded with unnecessary information and need a break.  You can only cram so much into their brain without letting it settle.  

How do we accomplish all of the above?

  1. It is going to take a HUGE investment in our education system.  Something elected republicans won't be on board with since they don't like to spend money on any form of infrastructure.

  2. We need teams of educators to go through and pick apart our curriculum to modernize it.  We need to find areas that we can either shorten or eliminate altogether.  It is important to have TEAMS do this as these changes need to be thoroughly discussed.  What may make sense to one educator may not to make sense to another. 

  3. New educators should be just as involved in this process as tenured ones.  We often look past young people as inexperienced when they are likely to have just as much (if not more) solid insight as anyone else.  

  4. Similar to traveling nurses, there needs to be a traveling teachers program.  See next section below.

Traveling Teachers

Similar to traveling nurses (and what I also think community policing needs) I think we need traveling teachers as well.  This would need to be a well paid program to promote educators who are proven highly effective and successful in their field.  Something like this would help school districts learn other ways to do things.  Similar to policing, teachers are stuck in their state until they retire and can receive their pension.  They are unable to see how other districts do things unless we happen to get a teacher who moves from another state and/or successful school district.  This is likely extremely rare to happen.  We need new ideas and new talent to come through and give us ideas in what worked for them and what changes we need to make.  Of course, we would have to find a way that teachers don’t lose their pension, but it has to be doable.  It is 2022 and we are America - the greatest country in the world.  We can do anything we want - we just have to make it happen.   This would be a great way to provide advancement opportunity for teachers who want to try something else or make more money.  While our education system isn’t very good, there are good teachers that could pick up new ideas elsewhere or exchange their strengths with other districts around the country.  We need more people who have exposure to other ideas that we haven’t quite captured.  Again, our problem is that our educators never get to see what happens outside of Nevada.  If we are going to succeed, we need teachers who are willing to travel and learn new techniques that we can implement in Nevada.  Otherwise we will keep running around in circles recycling the same people without any external ideas.  So many think they have all the answers, but we wouldn't still be 48 if we did.  We can keep trying new things, but every "try" is wasted time when we find that it doesn't work in the end.  It is time to find the funding and ask for help.  A program like this can truly not only help Nevada, but it can help other struggling states as well.  

Teacher Pay

If you read my student loan plan, I think that employers should pay for the education they require people to get.  We spend our time and money to get these degrees and so many employers don’t pay us for those.  For many, a degree lessens their actual earnings due to student loan payments.  I also don’t agree that the government should just wash student loans away as not everyone has loans.  Some people paid them off early and others may not have needed them for a variety of reasons.  Because it isn’t fair to wipe away debt for only people who have loans vs the ones who already paid their loans off, I think employers should have to pay for their degree requirements.  If they require a degree in order to get a job, they should be the ones paying for the degree.  If you don’t have student loans, then great, you are now making extra money that doesn’t have to go toward student debt.  Since teachers are often classified as a government job, then the government should be paying an amount for the degree the teacher has obtained ON TOP of their salary.  We should all want our teachers to be educated, therefore, taxpayers shouldn't have a problem paying for an educated professional to teach their children.  

Another thing that needs to happen is that we need to bump the base teacher salary up.  Nobody who has obtained a college degree should be making less than 3x the average rent for the area they reside in.  The last I checked, starting teacher pay was $36k, but I believe it is about $40k now if I’m not mistaken.  We need to keep bumping that amount up each year to keep up with inflation.  As this amount goes up, any educator making under $80k should be bumped up by the same amount.  So if we bump the starting pay by $1,000 each year, then we need to bump all educators up by $1,000 that year until they hit $80k.  At that point, they would be raised by a standard increase.  Teachers deserve much more and hopefully people who had to teach their own children throughout the pandemic agree.  Like all things education, this is going to take a hefty investment.  Elected republicans will never go for it, which is why we need to ensure we elect a Democrat.  

I am not a big fan of excessive spending, but I have seen firsthand how desperately our education system needs it.   Education is one area I will support whatever amount is necessary to build a better future for our children.  This is one area I truly believe liberal spending is very necessary.

 

How do we pay for this?

First, we need to legalize cannabis on the federal level.  That could free up a lot of money.  We also need to understand how that increased sales tax is being spent.  Being completely honest, I voted against this because I have seen how Washoe County spends money and I knew they couldn’t handle this either.  It still passed and I still don't understand why we are still in such a slump.  I don’t see any reason for it.  Hopefully once these new schools are up and running, that will hopefully free up some extra funds as well.  If not, then we clearly need more oversight and/or new people in place to properly manage cash flow for the school districts.

Critical Race Theory

While I would like to see something like this implemented in our curriculum, we are nowhere near ready for it.  We have a lot of work to do before we can add anything else.  This also needs to be thoroughly vetted so that it is properly taught.

I think one of the problems we have today is that racism is actually taught in our schools.  Perhaps unknowingly, but I think it is.  We are essentially taught very young that white people were once “supreme” to black people.  For some kids, this can be taken as, “oh cool!  I’m not black so that will never apply to me.”  I think that some people get in the back of their mind that they are better than others and while they don’t act on their true thoughts, I think many people tend to think they are "superior" to others.  I remember in 1st grade learning about race and Martin Luther King.  I remember seeing a movie with a water fountain for “whites” and another one for “colored.”  I didn’t really consider myself colored at the time, but I wondered which one people of my color would have had to use.  I then decided that I was white and didn’t think much more about it since I felt I could be seen as versatile.  I blended in with my classmates and that was that.  I didn't even like telling people I was Native American.  I can’t say what others thought about the lesson, by I really do think racism is inadvertently taught, whether we want to believe it or not.  I feel we are essentially taught to be grateful that we are white and our ancestors weren't forced into slavery - even though mine were and i didn't know it at the time.  I would be curious to know the perspective of a black person on these lessons growing up.   

Another observance I have noticed is that many mixed race people I know don't exactly see themselves as people of color.  I never quite fully saw myself this way until more recently.  I think we inadvertently teach kids it is wrong to be of color, but we should still respect the ones who are.  Unfortunately, some people can only see themselves as a person of color.   Individuals who see themselves for who they are. are going to be more sensitive to racism and it is harder for them to disregard it when they are treated differently.  Whereas people who are mixed race may opt to only see themselves as white and therefore don't notice race issues around them.  Following the Black Lives Matter movement, I noticed many problems I had over the years that potentially had to do with race and I never noticed.  More specifically, the fact that I was blamed for many things throughout my grade school years that I never did and was punished for.  I'm not entirely sure it had to do with race, but it is now suspiciously possible the more I think about it.  Very hard to say at this point.   

In the end, I would support a well thought out and executed CRT plan, but not until we fix all the other issues that is currently bringing our education system down.  We need to take stuff out before we add more stuff in. 

I think everyone should know where they came from and kids should be able to feel proud of who they are.  I was one of those kids who knew almost nothing and I wish I had had a better understanding of my ancestry growing up.  I think kids knowing their family tree and what countries their ancestors came from is really the first way a child should identify who they are.  We should all learn that we are equal and that we are all fortunate to be part of this country.  We should have had more of a lesson on the flag we pledged to each and every day and what it truly means about our ancestry and how we got here.  Children should know that had their ancestors not made sacrifices, they could have grown up in other countries and they should have an idea as to why their family came to America.  I think it will help children bond together and understand what a true America looks like with its many differences.  Kids can learn to be proud of their heritage no matter where they came from and can respect others for theirs.  We have a long way to go, but I think this is where we should really start. 

Teacher Expenses

It should be illegal for teachers to have to pay for ANYTHING related to their classroom.  I really can’t believe so many are still having to buy so much for their students.  These should be covered in lab fees and if a parent can’t afford it, then there needs to be a special fund set aside to help parents with such expenses.  No other job makes you pay for your own supplies - teachers shouldn’t have to either.  At the very least, school districts should be asking teachers what kind of supplies they need for their classrooms and the schools should order them and get bulk discounts.  I was a student office aide when I attended Pine Middle School and they had a big supply room where teachers would place an order and I would fulfill them with supplies we had on hand.  There were A LOT of supplies too.  I don’t know if this was some special thing for a school to have back in 2003, but we definitely had one.  I also don’t know if teachers were able to get everything they needed from me, but they certainly had a lot of items they could request.  In a worst case scenario, if a teacher needed something a supply closet doesn't have, they should be able to submit an expense report justifying the purchase and they should be able to get reimbursed like any other company would for their employees.  Teachers being forced to spend their own money is not ok!

School Lunches

One sad thing I learned during the pandemic is that so many kids and families rely on school meals when their family can’t normally afford food.  This is very sad.  As a foster child, I was entitled to the free hot lunch.  I would go to the cafeteria every day at lunch and pick whatever looked the least disgusting.  Once I brought that food back to my lunch table, I would maybe pick off a tiny piece or take a bite or two, then be done.  I would normally only drink my milk, eat my cookie or snack item they provided, and that would be it.  We need to provide better hot lunch options to kids in school.  Picky kids would probably starve themselves (which is exactly what I did).  I very rarely, if ever, ate breakfast.  Lunch I pretty much never ate.  In middle school I wouldn’t even touch the hot lunch.  I would usually eat my friends pizza crust (true story) and share their Gatorade.  Lunches at school for me were VERY minimal despite actually starving.  My first real food for the day would usually be when I get home from school and have a snack.  Then I would wait for dinner which was almost always good and really my only meal for the entire day.  I never told my foster family about this because I knew it was my only real option and nothing they could do about it.  I think eventually they would have let me pack a lunch if I wanted to since I was on such a high level, but the other kids couldn’t.  It was a special privilege only I had, but I was too lazy to pack a lunch.  It was easier to just starve myself for some bizarre reason.  I tell this story because it could be possible that other kids do this as some are likely just as picky as I was.  I would have been happier if they had just given me some bread and a little peanut butter.  It couldn’t have costed more than the nasty hot lunches they served.  If kids are really relying on these lunches, we should be finding them better food that is healthier and edible.  Food is very important for energy and learning.  A healthy, edible, balanced lunch isn’t too much to ask for and is the least we could do to help ensure these kids are eating and not starving themselves.   I may have been one of the few, but just one doing this is too many.   Food is very important and very necessary.  Especially if school lunch is one of their only sources for a meal each day.

High School vs. College

 

Another thing I think is ridiculous is that in order to obtain a degree, you have to retake courses in college that you already learned in high school or should have already learned in high school.  Personally, I don’t think I learned any more in college math, English, history, and science than I did in high school.  To me, this seems like a scam to get students pay extra for courses that are completely unnecessary.  These core courses should be covered in high school and could save students a lot of time, hassle, and money.  I get colleges and universities have to pay for their ridiculously expensive landscaping bill, but scamming students out of their time and money is not the way to approach it.  While I don’t think that raising fees is the answer, I would rather pay extra to be done with school sooner than to waste time AND money doing completely unnecessary courses. 

 

Free College

I don’t support free college.  This is something employers should be paying for if they want that fancy degree.  If college were free, it gives instructors less incentive to do a good job teaching.  The colleges won’t care and it will get as bad as our public school system.  Not to mention students can just fail courses and keep retaking them.  I think students need to go to school and take out a loan which is like a “tab” while you’re in school.  Once you graduate, look for an employer that will pay for your education.  Then at that point your college is free.  We shouldn’t be cheapening education especially with the direction this country is heading.

I would support free college if it relates to programs that people can't do much with.  It is sad to see so many people get scammed by putting their time and money into a degree they can't even use.  Colleges should have to disclose certain criteria with a degree program they charge for.  When people can't use their degree, they were scammed and the college should have to pay that money back.  I see too many hidden scams in the college system that preys on naïve young people who are just trying to do right by what society expects of them so they can make a living.  Surprise!  You just wasted your time and money.  SCAM.  This needs to change.

 

And Finally... - Extra Courses

As we get the education system back on track, I would like to see more relevant classes that would help students in life.  Whether these are online courses students complete in their free time to earn maybe a “life skills diploma” of some sort.  Or we can somehow fit them into the curriculum down the road if it makes sense.  I would like to see things like finance, credit cards, investments, building wealth, the stock market, caring for pets, buying a home, a car, substance abuse, addiction, debt, exercise, nutrition, dieting, scheduling, time management, study skills, etc.  There are so many important life skills that aren’t taught in school and really should be.  School should be setting kids up for success and more often than not we are setting them up for failure in all aspects of life.  Our kids are our future and they are worth the investment!  They deserve much better than what we are offering them!

I have released my childhood report cards.  They can be found in the "Documentation/Proof" tab.  This will show you exactly where I struggled and where I succeeded.  Further reflecting where I know how to help.