Next Up Blog

As we speak with Nevada’s private school leaders, educators and families this week, our gratitude and appreciation for their leadership in this health emergency grows each day.

The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration is proving a crucial lifeline for private schools to keep operating during this time.  It is a forgivable loan program that is available to nonprofits and businesses, including private schools.  Organizations must apply through their banks and financial institutions.

Given the great demand for the program, we are strongly encouraging schools to apply today, April 3.

Organizations that are eligible for this program include nonprofit organizations and businesses that have under 500 employees; however businesses in specific industries that have more than 500 employees but are considered small according to SBA Size Standards might still be eligible.

In order to get the loans forgiven there are rules regarding how the money must be spent. In addition, the payroll provisions contain requirements that businesses must maintain staff and payroll for the loan duration.  This linked document contains crucial details you will need to reference.

Program documents hold specific instructions for faith-based schools. Of importance: schools may not use the money to pay a priest, rabbi or clergy, or the mortgage on the sanctuary. The money can be used for school payroll costs and school rents/mortgage/utilities.  We encourage you to be conscious of the percentages allowed for the latter mentioned expenses.

In addition, according to the interim rule, schools that accept SBA loans/grants will not be subject to intrusive action or regulation by the SBA related to practices connected with their religious activities, including employment.

The interim rule is also valuable in satisfying potential issues of government funding religious entities directly for religious activities, which is not allowed under the First Amendment as interpreted by the US Supreme Court, and the inclusion of RFRA addresses the issue of government intrusion into the affairs of religiously affiliated entities.

One issue not addressed by the interim rule relates to schools that wish to remain entities which do not accept government funds. We recommend that schools who wish to remain such, but need the SBA loan/grant to keep the school going, create a company document approved by your board indicating that this is one-time emergency relief funding occurring during a national emergency and that your action in accepting the SBA loan/grant in no way indicates a change in their operating procedures or mission.

Again, we encourage schools to act swiftly. If you have any questions or need please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

We need to recognize that reliable transportation is critical as magnet schools, private schools, and charter schools in Nevada strive to increase the number of lower-income students they serve.

Depending on public transportation, unfortunately means that sometimes the only thing that can be depended on are problems. One of my closest friends shared with me her experience when she and her husband first moved to the Las Vegas Valley. Her husband used public transportation when he was working for the plumbers and pipefitters union. He only used public transportation on his days off and remembers the struggles it caused. He had to find other means of transportation to get to work, because he knew if he was using public transportation he would be late. 

Residents need to be able to count on reliable, affordable transportation. Without having access to reliable transportation, it limits employment options for residents. Their choices are narrowed down to what is near where they live.

Reliable public school transportation is a vital element for a healthy school system. The public school district transportation system should be a safe and effective way for students to travel to school. Without a dependable school bus system, students and parents are left with little options, especially families whose neighborhood school is one that persistently struggles with the quality of education.

In their recent report published by EdChoice, Transporting School Choice Students A Primer on States’ Transportation Policies Related to Private, Charter, and Open Enrollment Students, Michael Q. McShane and Michael Shaw explain that school transportation is inextricably linked to school options. We need to take a look at what we know, what we need to know, and what we can do to improve.

  1. What Do We Know?

We know that currently there is not an option for a school options transportation system in Nevada. 

McShane and Shaw share with us plenty of evidence that shows when students travel for school, they attend markedly better schools than their peers. Interestingly enough, this is still true among students who attend schools of choice. Students who use transportation to travel farther than their peers, tend to go to a higher-quality school than their peers, even if their peers are also attending a choice school. 

We also know that there is a shortage of school bus drivers in Nevada. The process to become a licensed school bus driver in Nevada is lengthy and filled with regulations. 

The problem is complex, however a few key takeaways are private and charter schools, as well as out-of-boundary schools, do not receive any funds that could allow them to implement a transportation system, there is a bus driver shortage, and because of regulations there seems to be no solution in mind other than a typical school bus.

  1. What Do We Need to Know?

We need to recognize that transportation is critical as magnet schools, private schools, and charter schools in Nevada strive to increase the number of lower-income students they serve. Nevada’s charter school community as a whole has made improving this disparity a major goal, and it is a central tenet  of the State Public Charter School Authority’s strategic growth plan. When comparing demographics of students at Nevada’s State-Sponsored charter schools and all of Nevada’s public schools, the biggest disparity has been found among FRL students. Currently 65% of students at Nevada’s public schools qualify for free and reduced lunch, where only 35% of state-sponsored charter school students qualify.

Transportation can be the single biggest equalizer for lower income families who do not have safe and ready access, and so do not have the same options for schooling. Offering transportation would allow lower income families more private school options.

The report from EdChoice compared transportation available for private and charter school students in a state-by-state summary. 31 states have made transportation funding or services available to charter students, with 17 of those states mandating that charter school student transportation funding is either equal, or roughly equivalent, to public school district students. Nevada is currently one of the 20 states that do not offer transportation services or funds to state-sponsored charter schools.

EdChoice’s breakdown of their state-by-state comparison for private school transportation shows us that “…29 states have provisions to provide transportation for private school students. Of those states, seven mandate transportation services or funding at levels equivalent or roughly equivalent to those of public district school students.” Again, Nevada is one of the 22 states that do not offer transportation services or funds to private school students.

  1. What Do We Do?

It’s time to take a look at what other states are offering. By comparing our services to theirs, we can find ways to fill in the gaps we currently have, which may mean working with school districts to collaborate on a transportation plan.

In Colorado, for example, if a charter school’s charter includes a provision for transportation, the charter school and the school district collaborate to create a plan to provide school district equipment to transport charter students. 

Another thought worth considering is loosening some of the regulations that are required for transporting students, specifically when it involves charter and private schools. Ride sharing is ever increasing in popularity, and might prove itself to be a feasible option that saves money, if policy changes were made to allow for other options than just a standard school bus.

Currently, rigid state regulations governing where school bus drivers receive their training are also worth examining to explore possible alternatives that could add flexibility without compromising safety provisions.

As the RTC struggles with losing revenue as more and more riders turn to ride sharing, perhaps partnering with the RTC might be a solution. There is a wide variety of possibilities to explore. Could the RTC create routes that would benefit students attending charter and private schools? If they did, would it increase their revenue? Perhaps charter and private schools could partner with the RTC in a way that cuts down the costs for schools, and still increases revenue for the RTC.

Schooling transportation is a big issue to solve. However, as we work together as an education community to improve equitable access to quality schooling options for all families, finding solutions will be vital.

We are thrilled to announce that Ashley Campbell has joined us as the newest member of our Nevada Action for School Options team. A lifelong Nevadan and admired leader within the Las Vegas education community, Ashley has most recently been driving different initiatives for the Pinecrest Foundation as its assistant director.

In her new position as Chief of Staff, Ashley’s talent for bringing community members together with contagious enthusiasm for initiatives that make a difference that matters for education (for learners as well as for educators) will be ever more essential as Nevadans navigate these trying, unprecedented times. You can reach her at ashley@nevadaaction.org.  Please reach out when you can, and please keep letting us know how we can be helpful to you.

Best of luck in your new role, Ashley. We feel honored to have such a widely-admired force for education good choose us for your new professional home.

Looking for free resources to use as teachers, and engage students and parents?

We’re now a week into the quarantine and school closure transition in Las Vegas, and balancing multiple roles while, as educators, trying to ensure the continuity of instruction for our students, might feel like literally having to bend backwards. We are all playing a game of limbo together learning how to balance our new roles as stay-at-home parents, remote workers, online instructors, and more – all at the same time. To help support, The Knowledge Society – a STEM-based accelerator program for teens – is fully committed to doing its part to assist the community during these times.

To that end, TKS has rolled out three major initiatives available for free to all teachers, students, and parents.

For Teachers: TKS is currently hosting a daily series of online webinars designed just for teachers at 1pm PST. In these webinars, TKS directors and participants discuss science and technology, strategies to engage students online, and ways to encourage student curiosity and self-regulated learning. Each session will feature a TKS student – Las Vegas students will be featured March 24 – 26. Learn more or sign-up at: https://learn.theksociety.com/teacher-sessions

For Students:   TKS is also hosting a daily series of online webinars for students at 11am PST. TKS directors and participants discuss technology, strategies for learning while at home, and host conversations with TKS students. Learn more or sign-up at: https://learn.theksociety.com/student-sessions

In addition to the online webinars, TKS will be offering a curated selection of their online technology curriculum (“Explore Modules”) to any student, for free. Students can access these modules and begin learning about Brain-Computer Interfaces and Space Technologies (more to come!) at: https://applications.theksociety.com/explore

For Parents:TKS is sharing a daily newsletter designed to help parents engage with their students to promote learning at home while schools are closed. Parents will be provided with quick, accessible resources for learning as well as suggested activities and discussions parents can have with their children. https://learn.theksociety.com/lets-stay-curious

All the opportunities outlined above are completely free and available to anyone who would like to take advantage. Please feel free to share far and wide to support as many parents, students, and teachers as possible.

In addition, TKS is committed to providing resources and online learning opportunities for students for as long as schools remained closed. Updates and sign-up links will continue to be provided online at www.theksociety.com.

So if right now you’re (perhaps literally) upside down staring at that limbo bar trying to figure out how to get to the other side without tipping it off and onto your head, keep in mind that we all are – but there is no shortage of help!

This post was guest-written by Kelle Snow, Associate Director of The Knowledge Society in Las Vegas. A special thanks to Don and the team at Nevada Action for School Options for sharing!

Curious about The Knowledge Society? Feel free to reach out to kelle@theksociety.com

We love that there is so much sharing of resources for the benefit of new-to-homeschooling families everywhere. So much of it, in fact, where should a parent even begin?

Nevada Action for School Options carefully curated the following list of our favorite free online learning tools – kid-, grown-up- and educator-approved. Follow the live links, dive in with confidence, and please share your thoughts or other ideas our communities might find useful.

1. NASA STEM at Home  (Grades K-4, 5-8, 9-12)

Thoughtful, engaging activities that kids can do on their own, others are more complicated and require parent involvement. The deep galleries’ Picture of the Day feature was a favorite here. Go NASA!

2.  Mosa Mack Science (Grades 4-8)

High-quality science lessons by topic, good quizzes and assignments. Free for 30 days with registration (downside – have to choose one grade level).

3. World’s Greatest Art Museums’ Galleries Online

Kids can get lost for hours exploring museums. Some have virtual tours that let kids choose where they want to go. No grouchy guards barking “Don’t Get Too Close!”

4. Core Knowledge Foundation

Parents get involved and choose assignments from across the world-renowned CK curriculum for science, math, and social studies.  From the people who brought you the “What Your (XXth) Grader Needs to Know” series.

5. Ology – American Museum of Natural History

All sorts of well-curated activities for kids at every level across these Smithsonian Museum’s broad offerings.  Plus dinosaurs!

6. ScienceBuddies

Archive of all sorts of fun, cool science experiments. We liked the Ask an Expert feature.

7. Poems recommended for kids from the Academy of American Poets

Kids can read out loud to each other. Plenty of silly poems here too…

8. StoryOnline

Stories read for kids by celebrated (and less celebrated) actors and actresses, including plenty of favorites.

9. Prodigy – Game-playing math learning grades 1-8.

Kiddos will actually find these fun!  They need to be logged into personal email accounts.

10. Audible

Big archive of stories read aloud for kids, from Amazon – so much here. Even better when you find a story here you have a copy of so kids can follow along. Listen to a book together each day.

11. Brainpop

Tons of free content for upper elementary and middle school learners for many different subjects. If parents click on the educators’ option, it helps them create lesson plans. Check out the digital animation lesson.

12. Bill of Rights Institute

The Bill of Rights Institute, a longtime renowned national nonprofit focused on civics and American government education, has made available its detailed curriculum, along with historical profiles and documents, best for middle and high schoolers

13. Scientific 7-Minute Workout

This is one I’ve used happily for years, especially during stretches of business travel.  They say keep the intensity level around 8 (of 10), and by the time you feel it, you’re about done!  From The New York Times – you can even fit this in this while the kids are working.