Live from Carson City – Legislative Update March 21
Gansert Proposal Would Preserve Opportunity Scholarship Program
A new bill introduced this week, SB 351 sponsored by Senator Heidi Seevers Gansert and seven others, would preserve and enhance the Opportunity Scholarship program’s ability to serve income-eligible students by:
- Restoring funding for the program to 2017 levels;
- Extending eligible tax credits for scholarships to include the insurance premium tax (making it easier for scholarship organization to raise dollars for scholarships);
- Establishing that students diagnosed with certain disabilities are eligible to receive Opportunity Scholarships regardless of household income level;
- Stipulating an external evaluation of academic progress by students in the program based on norm-referenced assessments currently used, conducted by an NSHE institution.
Last month the program’s official evaluation report issued by the Nevada Department of Education concluded that 68.4 percent of students participating in the program for all three of its years showed positive academic gains on assessments; 65.7 percent of students in the program for two consecutive students also posted outcomes deemed positive by the NDE analysts.
Achievement School District Plans?
SB 321, sponsored by education chairs Denis and Thompson, along with Senators Dondero Loop, Woodhouse, Brooks and Parks. Under the language in the proposal, the ASD’s currently-operating charter schools would have their contracts transferred immediately to the State Public Charter School Authority, and be required to seek approval from one of the state’s other charter school sponsors by July, 2020, or be closed.
The State Public Charter School Authority’s own proposal, AB78, proposes to shift the Achievement School District to within the Authority, while retaining its current statutory functions and systems.
Currently, over 90 percent of students attending current Achievement School District Schools are black or Hispanic and qualify for Free or Reduced-Priced Lunches under federal guidelines. Democracy Prep Agassi Campus, one of these schools, is home to the only four or five star middle school within five miles (the other three ASD schools have not yet received star ratings).
Achievement School District Director Rebecca Feiden is one of three finalists for the current vacancy for Executive Director of the State Public Charter School Authority.