Next Up Blog

(Originally published by ReimagineEdOnline.)

Families of special-needs learners across Nevada recently received notification that they have received grant awards under what may be the Silver State’s most family-friendly education program to date.

The Transforming Opportunities for Toddlers and Students (TOTS) program provides special needs learners under the age of 18, who “faced disparate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impacts,” with $5,000 grants, which must be used for educational purposes, broadly defined.

Photo: : New Horizons Academy in Las Vegas offers special needs students many opportunities for project-based learning, encouraging them to work in small groups to independently create projects they display during special assemblies, courtesy of ReimagineEdOnline.

Hiring tutors (including in microschools, learning pods and services available through diverse education providers), assistive technology, purchasing educational services from a private school, or even transportation for schooling all fall within the allowable uses for grant funds.

The program is administered by the Nevada State Treasurer, and grants will be distributed through the ABLE savings account program, via its virtual wallet mechanism. This distribution vehicle is an important component of the TOTS program, ensuring that these grants do not compromise participating families’ eligibility for other programs, and presents a useful model for other state school choice-eligible funds for special needs learners.

The TOTS program came into being in the closing days of the 2021 legislative session and was a priority for longtime school choice champion Sen. Scott Hammond in negotiations to finalize a budget package that included new taxes on the mining industry.

Noted Hammond: “The pandemic made it difficult for all families to keep their children’s learning on track, and especially for families with disabilities.”

Read the full article here at ReimagineEdOnline

Oct 24 Update:  The TOTS Grant Application is Live Now at: https://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/tots/

On August 18, the new TOTS grant program received the final approval necessary from the legislative Interim Finance Committee. As a result, the Nevada State Treasurer will being enacting the program imminently, awarding $5,000 tax-free grants, with a wide range of allowable uses, to families for each eligible special-needs child. Program applications will open soon for families – the most recent agency estimate is that it will open to receive applications the week after Labor Day.

Grants will be made through the ABLE Savings program administered by the Nevada State Treasurer, so interested families apply first to the TOTS program, unless they have already opened an ABLE account (as many have already done) The total program budget of $5 million will go quickly, and we don’t want families in need to don’t miss out.

Official TOTS program document here: TOTS Grant – Program Overview.

All learners under 18 years of age with special needs are eligible, regardless of where they receive their schooling.  Funds will be available to families for a wide range of educational needs, including the costs of tutoring, microschooling and services available through diverse education providers, assistive technology, even transportation.

Families must apply in two parts – first to set up an ABLE account, second to apply for a TOTS grant.

Note: ABLE Account requirements state that in order to open an account, a family must have a letter from a licensed physician affirming that disability “is of a level of severity that meets the Social Security Act disability standard.” The letter is not required to be submitted, simply maintained in family records.

We will be running office hours and special events in Las Vegas and Reno in the coming weeks to help families enroll and to answer questions.  Contact us for information or questions at info@nevadaaction.org or 702-202-3573 for information.

Special thanks to Senator Scott Hammond for his championing this program down the stretch during the legislative session. “I was thankful that the leadership of the majority party was willing to work with me to create this valuable opportunity for our special needs learners during the final days of the session,” said Senator Hammond.  “The pandemic made it difficult for all families to keep their children’s learning on track, and especially for children with disabilities.  This special program of assistance will make a valuable difference for all of Nevada’s community of special needs learners, including those who homeschool or attend nonpublic schools.”

This article updated August 26 and October 24, 2021.

Ten miles north of the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, one of the nation’s more powerful beacons for the future of schooling completed its first academic year in comparably stunning fashion.

The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy (SNUMA), the first-of-its-kind public private partnership micro-school designed to tackle pandemic learning loss, has operated in person every school day. Clark County public schools, meanwhile, operated a distance-learning program that few felt was working close to optimally.

North Las Vegas is one of Nevada’s poorest and fastest-growing cities. Residents and the public officials who serve them have complained for decades about being underserved by their massive school district, the fifth largest in the nation. Three out of four children who attended SNUMA last year arrived at the start of the year and six months into the pandemic at least two grade levels behind in their mastery of English language arts and math.

So, it was even more valuable when 100% of SNUMA students made at least one full year’s academic growth during the year in reading/English language arts, and 87% posted at least two years’ growth.

The results in math were comparable, if slightly muted; 92% finished the year having accomplished at least one school year’s academic growth in math, and 35% completed at least two years of academic growth.

The most striking results came from the program’s third and fourth grades. Every one of them who attended for the full year accomplished at least two years of academic growth in English language arts. In math, all accomplished at least one full year’s academic math growth, and 75% completed at least two years of math growth.

Read here for the complete article as published on RedefinED

Join our free, Thursday evening event series for all current and future microschooling and homeschool coop leaders, and for parents interested in joining this exciting, burgeoning edu-movement.

An opportunity to meet together with some of Vegas’ most interesting microschooling models and leaders, learn from each other and discuss ideas.  RSVPs required for health safety reasons to ashley@nevadaaction.org or 702-202-3573. Door prizes and snacks.

Learn more about microschooling at MicroschoolingNV.

Microschooling Leaders Connections with MicroschoolingNV

Thursday, 6pm July 8th

At Nevada Action for School Options, 6625 South Valley View Boulevard, Suite 422, Las Vegas, NV 89118

An important development for Nevada’s families of children with special needs emerged in the final hours of this legislative session.

A provision inserted into SB 461 by Senator Scott Hammond created a $5 million fund for grants to children with disabilities.  These funds can be accessed for a wide range of education-related purposes to confront learning loss, including in-person or online tutoring, assistive or other technology, career training or even transportation.

All learners under 18 years of age with special needs are eligible, regardless of where they receive their schooling.  The grant program utilizes funding from the federal American Rescue Plan and will be administered by the Nevada Treasurer’s office via the ABLE Savings Program.

Maximum grant amounts and other details will be made public in the coming weeks.

“I was thankful that the leadership of the majority party was willing to work with me to create this valuable opportunity for our special needs learners during the final days of the session,” said Senator Hammond.  “The pandemic made it difficult for all families to keep their children’s learning on track, and especially for children with disabilities.  This special program of assistance will make a valuable difference for all of Nevada’s community of special needs learners, including those who homeschool or attend nonpublic schools.”