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Education

Why Nevada Schools Aren’t Working

(Also at Nevada Progressive)

The Sun has a story this morning about Daniel Avellino, a second grade teacher at Aggie Roberts Elementary here in Henderson. Because of all the budget cuts of the last two years, Avellino has had a harder time paying off his college debt… Or even paying the bills and buying groceries.

So what is he doing? Oh, he now has a second job… That may soon become his new career.

Over time, Avellino hopes to turn his second job into a full-time career. He recently took another acting job playing Tony in “Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding” at Planet Hollywood, and is starting to look for an agent.

“I definitely don’t see myself in the classroom two years from now,” he said. “I chose to teach because I’m good at it, and I love it. But it’s like any job. If you’re not being treated right, you go somewhere else where they would appreciate you.”

Holding down three jobs and working more than 80 hours, six days a week comes at a price. The stress from “basically performing from 9 in the morning to 10 at night” and the lack of sleep has exacerbated Avellino’s headaches stemming from his sports-related concussions as a child, he said.

However, acting is fast becoming his second passion.

“It’s almost to the point where when people ask me what I do, I don’t say teacher anymore,” he said. “You’re embarrassed to say you’re a teacher.

“It’s heartbreaking. I feel like I’m being forced out of this position, but you can only take so much. You have to say enough is enough.”

So why am I so upset? Read this.

“Last year, pay freeze. This year, a cut in pay. I don’t want to stick around to see what happens next year,” he said as the nine-month school year winds to an end today.

Armed with a master’s degree in elementary education, the Buffalo, N.Y., native moved to the Las Vegas Valley five years ago to pursue his teaching career. Then, Las Vegas was a boomtown, and like many institutions, the School District was experiencing growing pains.

The influx of thousands of new students necessitated more classrooms and staff, so the School District built more schools and hired young, passionate teachers such as Avellino.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I like to keep it fun and creative, so I get a little silly in the classroom … When (students) see you care about them, they’ll do all the assignments, anything.”

But the economy tanked, and Avellino became one of more than 1,000 School District teachers who were “surplused” in March to plug a projected $407 million budget deficit. Teachers whose positions were eliminated at schools where there was an excess might be hired at other schools in the district, however “it’s basically the luck of the draw,” he said.

He sounds like the kind of teacher we’d love to have our kids learn from. But instead of encouraging good teachers like Avellino to educate our next generation of Nevadans, we’re pushing them away with budget cuts. And people wonder why Nevada is ranked 50th out of 50 in offering our students a chance for success?

There is a reason why education is so valuable. It really can be the key to unlocking a better future. But because Nevada doesn’t value public education, we see the most of the best and brightest avoid this state like the plague while our economy remains hopelessly overdependent on casinos and tourism.

There’s a reason why people in this state were crying out from January to March all the way to May. And even though Nevada has a budget, it still doesn’t really do anything to solve our long-term problems. That’s why there’s a growing demand to take action next year, regardless of what Sandoval and The Legislature (don’t) do in the interim.

Trust me. Daniel Avellino isn’t the only teacher Nevada is losing. There are more like him who can no longer survive under the current system. And as long as we keep treating teachers like crap and continue underfunding our schools, public education will continue to circle the drain in the toilet in this state. Something has to be done to fix this. We can’t keep waiting while our teachers are being forced to give up their passion and our students are being forced to give up their dreams.

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