By Catherine Cortez Masto
I’m a proud product of Nevada’s public schools, and every day I have the honor of saying that I’m Nevada’s first female senator. At Clark High School, I was educated by dedicated teachers who cultivated my love for learning – mentors whose lessons stayed with me to this day. I went to school with friends that I’m still in touch with today who live all across the great State of Nevada and contribute to it in so many ways.
My public school education gave me the tools I needed to go on to college at the University of Nevada, Reno and then law school. Yet today, public schools in America are struggling for resources. In many counties in Nevada, our school districts are forced to make hard decisions between updating crumbling infrastructure or spending money on supplies for students. And our teachers are dipping into their own pockets to try to provide more resources for students in their classrooms. In rural counties across Nevada, these needs are particularly acute. In White Pine School District, there are two school buildings over a century old, and replacing these two buildings alone would cost $40 million. School facilities across the state are in such a dire need of investment that The American Society of Civil Engineers rated Nevada’s school infrastructure a “C-” in 2018. And that’s alarming – how can students in Nevada feel inspired to learn at schools with outdated technology and rotting ceiling panels? How can students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have the support they need to grow and thrive without special education programs?
Nevada can’t reach its potential as the Innovation State if we fail to invest in our students and ensure they can compete for 21st century jobs. Through my annual tours around rural Nevada and video calls I’ve hosted with students, most recently with high schoolers in Elko, I’ve heard firsthand how important school connectivity is to student success. That’s why I’ve introduced bills like the Connected Rural Schools Act and the ACCESS BROADBAND Act to expand broadband access for our rural schools. These bipartisan bills help even the most remote counties in Nevada access the technology and resources they need to thrive, ensuring our students have the digital tools to reach their full potential.
I also want every student in Nevada to have all career pathways available to them, so I’ve sponsored the WORKER Act to promote apprenticeships and expand STEM and shop class type curricula. This bill helps ensure the good paying, in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow can be filled with our bright young minds right here in Nevada.
To address crumbling school infrastructure, I’ve also introduced the Renew America’s Schools Act, which invests $100 million each year in school facilities, including central air conditioning and heating units that are energy and cost efficient. By improving heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, the bill addresses the $46 billion funding shortfall our country faces every year for public school infrastructure by specifically prioritizing high-need and rural schools.
I want every student in Nevada to have more opportunities to succeed. And for me, that means investing in our schools to ensure reliable technology and safety in classrooms. Only then can students explore their talents and potential. I’ll continue fighting in Congress for rural schools in Nevada because every student, no matter their zip code, deserves the support they need to thrive.
Catherine Cortez Masto is the U.S. Senator representing Nevada.