Democratic lawmakers propose auditing the Clark County School District
Democratic lawmakers have submitted draft legislation to conduct a legislative audit of the Clark County School District as a way to address the mounting concerns expressed by teachers and community members.
It’s been almost 20 years since the Legislature last audited the Clark County School District, said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas), who filed the bill draft request on behalf of the Assembly budget committee on Monday. That 2004 audit looked at areas such as financial management, facilities management, personnel management and transportation.
The bill draft request filed on Monday will come before lawmakers in the coming 2023 session, and if approved, would likely be completed sometime in 2024.
In an interview, Carlton said she thinks now is a perfect time for another audit given the many changes in the past two decades, including new programs that target English Language Learners and students from low-income households, the switch to a new statewide funding formula and the recent influx of federal COVID-19 relief dollars allocated to school districts. The Clark County School District received about $1.2 billion in total from the three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.
“It's time for us to take a look to see have those programs been funded the way we had hoped and expected they would be funded, and take a real look at the impact that those programs have had on students in their families,” she said.
A legislative audit would also give lawmakers a chance to obtain direct answers from the district to better address questions they’ve been fielding from the community, such as concerns about transportation challenges and the health insurance costs for teachers. The proposal also comes amid calls to break up the state’s largest school district of about 300,000 students.
“The bottom line is, we just want to make sure there's transparency and accountability, and that we can answer questions that our constituents have about what has been done with both the state, federal and any other monies coming into CCSD,” said Assembly Democratic leader Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas).
The audit, if approved by the 2023 Legislature, would be collaborative with the school district, Yeager added.
The school district said in a statement to The Nevada Independent after this story was published that it welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate its “student-focused spending transparently” and already has its budget information published online.
In addition, the school district’s per pupil funding has increased by 25 percent over the last four years, and the district’s unassigned ending fund balance, or reserves, has increased from $6.4 million to $113.4 million during this same time period, according to a spokesperson for the school district.
John Vellardita, the executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said he doesn’t have a problem with the proposed audit, and thinks the public deserves transparency on the district’s finances.
“I don't think they have anything to hide, I think their finances are in better shape than they have been in the past, and I think that's a tribute to a very, very conscious effort and practice on the part of CCSD administration to make sure that they're managing their resources as best as they can,” he said.
But he said he thinks this level of transparency should also be expected of Nevada’s other 16 school districts, especially given the recent shift to a new statewide education funding formula.
Carlton said this proposal isn’t targeting other school districts because the committee hasn’t heard the same type of concerns from them as it has on the Clark County School District. But Yeager said lawmakers are able to request other bill drafts if there’s interest for audits into other school districts.
Updated on 9/19/22 at 2:13 p.m. to include a comment from the Clark County School District.