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School district lobbyists cautiously optimistic about upcoming legislative session following midterm election

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
Education
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Front view of the building front of the Clark County School District administrative building

Lobbyists working for the Clark County School Board said the outcome of the midterm election could bode well for local education requests given that the governor-elect and both legislative leaders are from Southern Nevada.

Their comments came as the School Board of Trustees reviewed and approved the district’s 2019 legislative platform, which makes modernizing the state’s K-12 education funding formula the top priority. The gear-up for the approaching legislative session is in full force following Tuesday’s midterm election, in which voters chose Democrat Steve Sisolak as the state’s new governor.

Sisolak, chairman of the powerful Clark County Commission, will be working with Assembly and Senate leaders who are also from Las Vegas. The Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, chose Jason Frierson as speaker of the Assembly and Kelvin Atkinson as Senate majority leader.

“The power shifting to Southern Nevada also lends a new lens on what’s going to take place,” said Patrick McNaught, the CEO and senior partner of GP Partnerships, which was hired to help with the district’s lobbying efforts.

McNaught said the focus going forward will be meeting with new elected officials — including many in the state Senate and Assembly who are from the Las Vegas area — and pitching the district’s education platform. (The large majority of Senate and Assembly seats are located in Southern Nevada.)

‘The good news is a majority of them are from here, and it’s a very important issue for them,” he said.

The district’s platform notes that an increase to the base funding formula should allow more investment in staff for key positions such as teachers, support professionals, school police and mental-health workers as well as provide incentives for teachers working in Title I schools. It should also fund professional development for educators, research-based instructional materials and safety enhancements.

The drumbeat for more K-12 education funding has grown louder over the past year and half as the school district — and others across the state — weathered budget deficits that led to cuts. School officials in Clark County have been working to repair the district’s finances but declining enrollment related to charter school growth has complicated those efforts.

The district ended the 2018 fiscal year with $18.9 million in its unassigned ending-fund balance, which equaled about 0.81 percent of its general operating revenue. The goal is to bring that figure up to 1.75 percent — or roughly $41.3 million — by the end of this fiscal year.

The priorities listed in the district’s platform, while all tied to student achievement, largely revolve around money. District officials would like to see a maintenance fund established, additional resources for the Read by Grade 3 program, more funding for career and technical education and protection of its ending-fund balance from collective bargaining.

But one of the school district’s bill draft requests addresses an entirely different concern — student well-being. The district wants the state to implement a “Handle with Care” initiative related to students who have experienced trauma. The proposed law would require law enforcement officials to notify the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the school district when they encounter a child at the scene of a traumatic event, thereby making sure educators are aware and checking on the well-being of that student.

Trustee Lola Brooks said it’s crucial the community enters the upcoming legislative session with a unified voice regarding the education needs.

“We just need to take this platform and repeat it over and over and over again until we can actually make some progress,” she said.

The 2019 legislative session begins in February.

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