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May 11, 2017   |   Legislation, School Finance Reform
  

ZOO Schools Hearing Today

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Today at 3:30 p.m. there is a Senate Education Committee hearing on SB 390, which deals with the expansion of ZOOM schools in Nevada.  Please consider going to Grant Sawyer to support this program that has made a significant change in the lives of our poorest kids.  ZOOM is a tremendous success that has garnered national attention.

 

ENN believes that it is in the state’s best interest to continue to expand ZOOM.

 

The ZOOM program currently serves 45,000 students.  ZOOM targets the English Language Learner population in Nevada,  which is fifth highest in the country, and introduces research-based practices that move student achievement, such as reading centers, an extended schools year and additional teaching time, more personalized instruction, and increased family engagement to ensure success.   ZOOM has been so successful that during Governor Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address, he announced that he was going to earmark $42 million additional dollars to expand ZOOM.  More recently, Governor Sandoval has stated that any additional monies for education must go to evidence-based practices.

 

The policy question on the table is whether to expand ZOOM schools, an intervention that works, versus taking the $42 million from ZOOM expansion, and start towards a new form of per pupil funding, described as “weighted funding,” yet to be proven as effective,  that would take into account status (whether a  student is poor or ELL).  Schools would get extra funding simply based on counts of students in these categories.  Instead of targeting neediest schools where the entire school population is made up of  students who qualify for free and reduced lunch (FRL), the proposed  scheme would divide up $42 million, on criteria yet to be disclosed, among many more students and many more schools.  More schools would get pots of monies —  some substantial and some meager — on a per pupil basis, without meaningful accountability, or requirements on how the funds should be spent.

 

Is this a move that will help, or will this be another well-intentioned project leading to waste and lost opportunities for children?

 

In testimony, the Guinn Center submitted the following: “It is a much better education policy and ROI to invest adequate resources in the highest need schools; Zoom Schools and Victory Schools point us toward the same conclusion.” They also  added,  “The Guinn Center believes that Zoom School expansion is the best way to bridge to a weighted funding model. As such, we recommend directing all available resources (e.g. Governor Recommended budget of $142 million, $42 million of which is new monies) targeting ELLs to Zoom School programs.”)

 

We agree with the Guinn Center’s recommendation that Nevada should continue to expand ZOOM.  ENN believes Nevada can move out of number 50 by focusing investments in proven, research-based programs, as Governor Sandoval has recommended, and targeting scarce dollars to schools in our poorest neighborhoods, and supporting them to be high-performing.

 

When the state doesn’t have enough money to implement a weighted funding formula that would reach all students, we shouldn’t go for a quick fix.  Nevada is number 50 because so many students are in low performing schools in poor neighborhoods.  These schools have been historically starved of resources.  They have the most inexperienced teachers and the most vacancies.  ALL children should enjoy a quality teacher in every classroom, not just the students who live in suburbs and high-income zip codes.

 

Shouldn’t  ELL students living in Summerlin and Green Valley also get extra dollars?  Of course they should!  However, we know that our Summerlin schools enjoy access to more resources, are more likely to be high performing,  and have more experienced teachers on staff.  In the current system,  low-performing, low-income schools subsidize the higher-performing schools.  ZOOM programs compensate for this difference and address teacher talent inequality.  ZOOM  schools contain monies that will allow principals to attract and retain talented staff.

 

We shouldn’t move to a system that will exacerbate inequality.   We need to reach the kids who have the least chance of succeeding first.  We need to help these school communities that are starved so teachers stay there and feel supported.

 

ZOOM schools work. And continued zoom investments will move Nevada out of Number 50, which will impact our competitiveness when businesses start looking at where to locate.

 

We urge everyone to testify in support of the expansion of ZOOM schools. If you can’t attend, you can submit your opinion on the NV leg website and type in SB390. Thank you all for your support as we push our legislators to support ZOOM Schools.

#SB390 #ZOOM2VictoryNV #FullyFundedFirst