Consolidation vs. division

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By Optic Editorial Board

Gary Gold, chair of the West Las Vegas school board, is pushing the issue of consolidation in a responsible way. He’s taking it to his own school board.

The idea of unifying the West and East school districts has been simmering on the edges of the city’s political discourse for decades now. Since the merging of the two Las Vegases in 1970, school district consolidation has been brought up and buried countless times. But Gold’s approach is somewhat unique because, as a second-term school board member and head of West’s board, he’s in a position to keep the discussion going.

That kind of leadership has been lacking in the past.

A couple of months ago, he made his views well-known at a Las Vegas City School board meeting. He said on no uncertain terms that he favors consolidation and is willing to lose his board position to get it done. Recently he placed the issue on his own school board meeting agenda and told his colleagues he’d like to put it before the voters.

The board members’ reactions were cautious. Henry Abeyta said now isn’t the time. David Romero said more discussion is needed. But it’s Christine Ludi‘s comments to which we really take exception.

Ludi said the districts should work together on some things but remain separate. We suppose that’s the road of least resistance, but we fail to see any logic to it. Politically, maybe that’s smart, but educationally, it just doesn’t make sense.

She also said previous consolidation studies went nowhere, so the community must not want it. But it’s not the community that blocks any forward movement on this issue; it’s the districts’ leadership, through their own inaction.

Ludi also said she’s considering the livelihood of the districts’  employees, but that’s a wrong-headed approach to the issue. Aside from the fact that every school could remain open under consolidation — and they’d each need the same number of principals, teachers and support staff — jobs shouldn’t be the reason to hang onto two districts.

We agree with Gold, who said the districts shouldn’t be functioning as employment agencies. And while it’s true the administrative jobs would be cut, it’s important to remember that the districts need to operate efficiently. Let’s not forget that money going into administrative needs is money not going into the classrooms.

Ludi may have been right, however, when she said that district consolidation should have occurred in 1970, when the Las Vegas municipalities merged. Then maybe Las Vegas would have been more unified over the last four decades, instead of being the divided city we still are today.