Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday he was not given advance notice of the Clark County School District’s decision to cut nearly 200 middle and high school dean positions in an effort to cover a $17 million budget shortfall — a statement that was immediately walked back by his office.
“That was their decision,” Sisolak said. “We allocated money, we allocated more money than we ever have in the past. They had to make hard decisions and I respect [CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara’s] decision.”
Sisolak made the statement following a bill signing for the state’s new education funding formula in Las Vegas. Shortly after, Sisolak spokeswoman Helen Kalla clarified his statement, revealing that CCSD did indeed call ahead, but it did not provide the scope of planned cuts.
“CCSD called the Governor’s Office to provide notification that the District has decided to move administrators into teaching positions in an attempt to avoid cuts to the classroom,” Kalla said. “No other specifics were provided ahead of Monday’s announcement.
“During the 2019 session, the Governor and Legislature provided record funding to our K-12 education system. CCSD, along with every local school district, has the authority to establish their budget for the next fiscal year.
“The Governor has made clear he believes our educators are the most valuable resource in our schools. He urges all school districts to seriously weigh the funding options for their local education systems in the upcoming year.”
The remarks come after a week of mounting outrage over Jara’s decision and announcement, which has drawn the ire of parents, teachers and administrators. In a vote wednesday, 72 secondary school principals with the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees, which represents deans, unanimously voted in favor of a declaration of no confidence in Jara. And at a school board meeting Thursday, CCASAPE President and Eldorado High School Principal David Wilson said hundreds more administrators backed the move.
The rest of the day was dominated by a marathon of bill-signings ahead of a constitutional deadline for Sisolak to sign off on the work of the 2019 legislative session. Before he signed the new funding formula, meant to replace the aging “Nevada Plan,” Sisolak also greenlit measures expanding election access and tightening restrictions on guns.
Among the measures Sisolak signed:
AB345, an omnibus elections bill which implements same day voter registration and allows county clerks to extend the early voting hours beyond what may be scheduled. It also implements automatic voter registration, a measure approved by voters in 2018 after former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar bill after the 2017 legislative session. Under automatic registration, the state’s opt-in registration has been changed to opt-out, meaning anyone signing up for or renewing a driver’s license is automatically registered.
AB291, which enacts extreme risk orders, or the ability to temporarily seize guns belonging to a person exhibiting high-risk behavior. The bill also bans bump stocks, such as those used in the 2017 shooting at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas, and lowers the legal limit blood alcohol level for handling a firearm from 0.1 to .08. Speaking at the signing, bill sponsor Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who was present the 1 October shooting, said the measure represented “comprehensive steps” toward eliminating gun violence in the state.
SB463, a measure that would provide resources dedicated to mental health at local coroner’s offices. Sisolak said the bill comes a direct response to the mental stress created by the 1 October shooting, but will apply to any similar event.
SB543, which replaces the decades-old Nevada Plan with an updated funding formula. The new formula would weight school funds with intent of letting money follow students.
SB504, an appropriations bill that allocates $5 million toward outreach efforts for the 2020 census. The U.S. Commerce Department, which heads the Census Bureau, is in the late stages of implementing a citizenship question that many critics fear could create a chilling effect among Latino communities and unfairly benefit Republicans during post-census reapportionment.
Sisolak — flanked by Rep. Dina Titus and a handful of Democratic lawmakers — also stopped at the East Las Vegas Library Friday, where he signed a number of bills related to immigration, immigrants and English language learners, including:
SB538, which creates the Office for New Americans. The office would coordinate services available to new immigrants as well as streamline the process for immigrants to obtain a professional license.
AB275, which removes a citizenship requirement for a number of occupational licenses and prohibits the delay of a license because of an applicant’s immigration status.
AB336, which solidifies U-visa protections, a federal program meant to grant protections to immigrants who are victims of crime and creates a standard for law enforcement agencies using u-visa law enforcement certifications
AB219, which updates teaching standards for students who are English-language-learners and provides for ELL support for state testing.
Sisolak ended the day with a visit to the Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas, where his focus moved to bills that directly affected the state’s black community. In particular, Sisolak and the other Democratic lawmakers in attendance, including Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, Attorney General Aaron Ford and a number of other legislators, praised the Legislature’s work on criminal justice and bills related to criminal justice reform.
Those bills include:
AB236, a wide-ranging criminal justice omnibus measure that enshrines more than two dozen recommendations made by an interim commission formed to stem the rising costs of prisons in Nevada. Among other things, it would raise the threshold for drug trafficking charges, adding nuance to state burglary statutes and expand eligibility requirements for diversion programs through specialty courts.
AB267, which would provide compensation for people who have been wrongfully convicted. That compensation scales along with the length of time a wrongfully-convicted person spent in prison, to a maximum of $100,000 for every year in prison.
AB326, a bill that would create tax credits meant to spur the construction of grocery stores in urban “food deserts.”
Finally, the governor turned to three bills sponsored by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, who died suddenly during the legislative session. Surrounded by Thompson’s family, a tearful Sisolak dedicated those bills to his memory as he signed them into law.
Those bills include:
AB235, which would facilitate mentorship programs through the creation of a Nevada Advisory Commission on Mentoring.
AB289, which replaces the existing Read by Grade 3 requirements — a policy that would hold back a student who could not read by the 3rd grade — with intervention services.
AB363, a bill that would waive driver’s license exam fees for homeless youth, as well as providing other certain state-provided documents free of charge for homeless people under certain circumstances.
Sisolak also announced late in the day a veto of AB444 — a bill that would have created a legislative committee on tax expenditures and incentives for economic development — bringing his total vetoes to three on the session.
The governor also rejected AB186, which would have entered Nevada into the national popular vote compact and SB496, a bill that would have allowed licensed limousine operators to lease their limos to independent contractors.
Updated 4:45 p.m. - updated to add additional context on a statement regarding the CCSD dean cuts from the governor's office
Updated 5:00 p.m. - updated to include additional bills signed by Gov. Sisolak on Friday
Updated 8:15 p.m. - updated to include the final slate of bills signed by Gov. Sisolak on Friday, as well as an additional veto