How to spend CCSD’s $845 million? Ask teachers, students, parents

Each morning for the past 34 weeks, I have logged onto my computer at exactly 8:10 a.m. I open my Google Meet, Attendance Sheet, and Daily Slides, and greet my 37 5th grade students. These 11-year-olds are able to navigate virtual meetings, editing documents, and submitting work like any pro in the tech industry. This year has brought unprecedented change and significant disruption to what is considered regular learning, but that’s not the whole story. 

In classrooms like mine across Clark County School District, we've built a culture of innovation and trust between families and staff members. School is no longer an isolated experience — it's in our students’ living rooms, and our families have a direct line of access to their student's teachers daily. My students are motivated to come to class each day because they have consistency and rigorous instruction to look forward to. 

That is—for the students who show up. What keeps me up at night are my students who don’t. 

Due to inadequate internet connections and the complicated home schedules of front-line workers trying to survive in a pandemic, I have students who can only attend class once or twice a week. All the emails, messages, and calls I make to my families can only do so much. Every missed hour of instruction widens the academic gap for these students. The realities of COVID-19 still weigh heavily on their minds. Even at age 11, they’re nervous about “the virus” and what it will mean for their academic careers for years to come. 

Recovering from this year of unprecedented trauma and disrupted learning is a monumental task. Fortunately, for the first time in my six years teaching in CCSD, we have tools at the scale of the problem: the $845 million coming to our district from the American Rescue Plan. Not only can we create specific programs for this moment, like CCSD’s planned summer academy. More importantly, we can make investments that will create long term equity and learning growth. We can have a taste of what it might be like to adequately fund our schools, and then in two years we can decide to make it permanent.

Who can we go to for the best ideas on how to spend this $845 million? The teachers, students, and families who are on the front lines. Over the month of April, INVEST (Igniting Nevada’s Education System Today) engaged with over 100 CCSD constituents about how we should target these resources. Superintendent Jara and our CCSD Board of Trustees would be wise to listen to their ideas:

  • Extended School Day -- increased duration combined with increased cooperative play, opportunities for social interaction, and Social/Emotional Learning (SEL).
  • After-School Tutoring -- achieving rigor by fairly paying teachers at their contract rate.
  • Hiring Paraprofessionals - improving adult/student ratio to support interventions and small group instruction models.
  • Wraparound Services - Social Worker, Counselor, and School Psychologist positions at each school campus, paid a living wage.
  • SEL Curriculum and Training - content combined with comprehensive and sustained training for staff members with cycles of observations and support. 
  • Community Partnerships - expand successful programs such as FACES Family Engagement Centers, BoysTown behavior wraparound services, and Communities In Schools.

With the $845 million coming our way, all of these investments are possible. Our Board of Trustees is next convening today. Confusingly, the use of this $845 million isn’t even on the agenda. The next school year is rapidly approaching, and we need a plan rooted in the experience of our teachers, students, and parents. I’ll be at the meeting advocating on behalf of my students — both the ones who have been showing up, and the ones who have not. 

Dominique De Biasio is a CCSD educator and chair of INVEST (Igniting Nevada’s Education System Together).