With Nevada’s beleaguered economy playing backdrop to the upcoming elections, it comes as no surprise that funding is a large point of contention in Ken Grein and Howard Rosenberg’s race for the Washoe County School Board in District D. They are using the campaign to try to educate the public on how to cope with the money troubles.
“The most pressing problem we face is financial,” said Ken Grein, the incumbent board president and a trustee since 2009.
Born and raised in Lovelock Nevada, Grein received a bachelor’s in Elementary and Special Education and a master’s in Education Administration, both from the University of Nevada, Reno. Grein has spent 32 years serving the Washoe County School District in a number of roles, including teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent of elementary education, assistant superintendent of K-12, and superintendent of operations.
According to Grein, the WCSD has suffered over $120 million in cuts over the past two years, and unfortunately, he said, the future of education funding doesn’t look much brighter.
A bond measure currently used to make much-needed capital improvements in Washoe County, such as the repair of heating and air-conditioning systems or the fitting of schools with up-to-date technology, expires in November. If the district can’t obtain the proper funding to meet its capital needs, which Grein estimates to be in excess of $500 million, the board will be forced to take money from the general education fund—right out of the classroom.
Grein said the most important task facing the upcoming school board will be to lobby the Nevada Legislature for increased education funding. He said that as part of the previous school board, he’s already gathered a large group of over 800 Washoe County parents to help in this endeavor.
“We’re going to have to get the Legislature to come up with some sort of line-item capital funding provided by the state,” Grein said. “If you value education, you have to fund it.”
But Grein’s opponent, Howard Rosenberg, disagrees with Grein’s hard focus on the importance of increased funding.
“People solve problems, not money,” said Rosenberg. “Every school system in the world could use more money.”
According to Rosenberg, the problems confronting the district are not strictly financial, but systemic. Although he recognizes the essential role of funding in K-12 education, he believes the WCSD could better allocate its existing funds.
As a school board trustee, Rosenberg said one of the first changes he would make would be a reevaluation of the K-12 curriculum. He believes the goal of education should be for students to attach profound meaning and value to the subjects they’re taught in school. He wants Nevada children to make a deep and personal connection with their educations.
“You have to attract the child to something that means something to him or her,” he said. “I’m not saying that we throw everything away, I’m saying that we reexamine what we’ve got.”
Another of Rosenberg’s suggestions is to hold the school board meetings in a rotational circuit among the various K-12 schools in Washoe County. He believes that such a change would not only put the school board in better touch with the needs and problems of Washoe County schools, but allow parents easier access to policy-making that affects their child’s education.
Rosenberg’s education beliefs stem from a career-long immersion in education at all levels. He received a bachelor’s degree in art education at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1962 and advanced degrees in education and art at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and School of Design in 1965. He has been an art professor at the University of Nevada, Reno for 46 years, where he serves as the sole undergrad advisor for the art department. Between 1996 and 2008, Rosenberg served on the Nevada Board of Regents that governs higher education in the state.
It was his experiences in higher education that led Rosenberg to pursue a position on the Washoe County School Board. Disappointed by the high number of university and community college students required to take remedial classes before entering a college-level curriculum, Rosenberg decided a more radical reinvention of the K-12 system was necessary. “There’s so much we could do,” said Rosenberg. “The most important thing is to build that wonderful relationship that needs to exist between student and teacher.”