There’s power in numbers |

There’s power in numbers

Cory Fisher

Every school day, Nevada’s students are busy tackling new facts, ideas, skills and concepts – there isn’t much time to ponder who or what helped to shape their state’s current educational practices.

But to any student who reads this, perhaps the story of a determined group of women will come to mind the next time he or she switches on a school computer.

Two years ago, under the direction of the Nevada Federation of Republican Women’s past-president Patsy Pumphrey, a legislative advocacy committee was formed. Members were surveyed on what they believed the top concerns in the state were – education was by far the most popular response.

“When Nevada’s legislative session began in January, we took a look at Gov. Miller’s budget,” said legislative advocacy chair Glenda Peake. “We became concerned with an item mandating five computers for every classroom. Not only was it expensive, we felt it was misplaced energy – it wasn’t practical to just have five students on computers at a time. Students need to be in computer labs with full-time technicians, otherwise computers are just a toy.”

The NVFRW legislative committee also interviewed many teachers, Peake said, all of whom agreed that students would benefit more from having computers in a centralized location with fully-trained technology specialists.

What happened next turned out to be the biggest undertaking in the NVFRW’s history, Peake said.

Legislators received more than 1,200 letters and 500 phone calls on this issue – sustained over a six month period. Members of the NVFRW monitored every committee hearing and spoke with state leaders and the state board of education.

“This became a strong, united effort on the part of every Republican women’s organization in Nevada – legislators said they had never seen anything like this over such a long period of time,” Peake said. “Every group in the state was kept informed on what was going on in the Legislature – we were very serious about this.”

And serious they were, said Laura Sinclair, president of the Lake Tahoe-Nevada Republican Women, who says her organization, along with the Douglas County Republican Women, played a key role.

“We are more than a political organization – we are very attuned to the needs of our community,” Sinclair said. “We believe this aspect of our club work has been sadly neglected.”

Thanks to Nevada’s Republican women, Sinclair said the budget item was changed to allocate $27.5 million to school computer labs, full-time technicians and computer facility enhancements.

“It was a direct result of our lobbying efforts that the computer labs became a reality,” she said. “We feel it is crucial people recognize our commitment to education.”

Over the years, the two local organizations’ many efforts to improve education have also included scholarships for George Whittell and Douglas high schools, donating books to libraries, raising funds for the D.A.R.E. program, Grad Night and the Madrigal Singers of Douglas County High School.

“Since the legislative session ended we’ve had wonderful feedback from teachers,” Peake said. “This was not a philosophical issue – when people thought about it, they realized it was just a misappropriation of funds. This is unbelievable and extremely gratifying – we’d never done anything like this before. We look forward to dealing with educational issues again.”

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