Lincoln County School Board chair Wade Poulsen said some of the bills passed, or still waiting the governor’s signature or veto from the legislature session that ended June 1, will affect schools in Lincoln County.
Poulsen said this session was the single biggest session for education in state history. “More educational bills were passed, more reform has been instituted, more money appropriated, it was a big year for education, and we’re still trying to digest all that.”
He said there was more legislation this time that had to do with charter schools. “One of the biggest things was allowing home schools, charter schools and private schools to be able to receive public money for each student.”
An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted Governor Sandoval, “signed Senate Bill 302, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, which allows parents to receive state funds through an education saving account for their child to attend private school or home-based education.
Under the law, students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have been enrolled in public school for at least 100 consecutive days can receive the per-pupil amount guaranteed by the state to attend a private school.
Students in poverty or with special needs will receive 100 percent of the per-pupil funding, about $5,700, while other students can get 90 percent.
Nevada is the fifth state to create an education savings account program, according to The Friedman Foundation for Education Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for educational options.”
Poulsen said he feels this may not turn out to be so good, and that is detrimental to public schools because it is taking money away and giving it to the others.
Supporters of the bill said it boosts choices and empowers poor families to pick the right school for their child.
However, Poulsen said it hurts the public schools, especially in the area of athletics. “The home schooled, charter and private school kids can participate in public school sports, but the public school isn’t going to receive any further funding for them. This ruling has all the potential to really hurt the public education system.”
There are no charter schools, or private schools in Lincoln County at present. “Though we have always had home-based students,” Poulsen said. “Most of the kids in the county who might be going to a charter school are doing it online, not a brick and mortar building.”
He said White Pine and Churchill County will be heavily affected by the new law. “There’s a potential of Churchill County losing about 25 percent of their teachers and students, who might switch to the alternative type schools.”
The state is going to do more for bullied students. “This will be positive for the state and the county,” Poulsen said. The Office of Safe and Respectful Learning in the state education system will open a 24-hour hotline to report incidents and requirements for schools to report and investigate bullying.
Another couple of bills that were passed involve the state keeping closer watch on underperforming schools and making efforts through a variety of new programs to improve them. More oversight and an influx of millions of dollars for schools with a high poverty rate or ones that are low performing will be focused on with those schools being able to tailor programs more toward the individual’s needs.
Also, public K-12 teachers and administrators who are ineffective now have fewer protections for layoffs. They might be among the first to be laid off if a given school district has to make staff reductions.
Effective teachers will be eligible for $5,000 annual financial incentives if their first two years of teaching is in a disadvantaged school.