Democrats want districts to show how they will boost achievement with extra school funds
Top Democrats announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation requiring Nevada’s school districts to detail how they will invest the additional funds they are expected to receive in the upcoming biennium to improve student achievement, a nod to similar calls made by other leaders around the state.
Under Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed budget, K-12 schools would receive more than $2 billion in additional funding. That would raise the statewide base per-pupil funding amount by about $2,000.
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) called on Nevada’s 17 school superintendents and the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority to detail their plans in a legislative hearing within the next 30 days in addition to submitting written reports.
“Our children and families deserve nothing less than the best possible education, and we will not rest until every school district is delivering on that promise,” Yeager said in a statement. “Public money spent on public education must yield measurable and quantifiable results in student achievement – the status quo is simply unacceptable.”
The Nevada Independent has reached out to the Clark County School District and the Washoe County School District for their comments on the Democratic proposals.
The Democrats’ announcement comes a few days after the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) teachers union called on lawmakers to demand the Clark County School District present its plans for how it will invest the additional dollars it stands to receive under the governor’s recommended budget. CCEA also pushed for placing the district under receivership if it failed to improve student outcomes in a year.
Though the Democrats’ proposal doesn’t go as far as requiring receivership, CCEA called the Democrats’ actions a step in the right direction.
“With unprecedented investment comes unprecedented accountability,” CCEA said in a statement. “CCEA applauds Democratic leadership’s demands for school districts to present concrete plans before funds are released for the upcoming year.”
Lombardo has also been pushing for greater school accountability. In his State of the State address in January, Lombardo said he would not accept “a lack of funding as an excuse for underperformance,” and that he would call for “systematic” governance change for K-12 education in 2025 “if we don’t start seeing results.”
In early February, Lombardo issued an executive order calling for school districts and the State Public Charter School Authority to submit external, third-party audits to the governor’s finance office by March 1.
However, the statewide teachers union, the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA), said while it supports accountability and transparency, it cautions against relying on overtesting as a measure for student achievement.
“We hope that accountability is measured by strategies to ensure that a qualified educator is with our students every step of the way throughout the school day, such as improving school safety, class size reduction, mental health supports, and higher pay for every Nevada educator,” NSEA said in a statement.
Cannizzaro said Democrats are committed to ensuring the $2 billion increase in funding will boost educational outcomes.
“I look forward to hearing from our district superintendents to learn more about how they plan to improve student outcomes, retain qualified teachers and staff, and ensure our schools provide a safe and healthy learning environment,” she said.
This story was updated at 1:43 p.m. on 2/23/23 to add a statement from the Clark County Education Association, and updated again at 5:55 p.m. for a statement from the Nevada State Education Association.