Carson City 80th Session Summary

Nevada Action for School Options congratulates Nevada’s families and students on making it through another turbulent session of their biennial legislature, for the most part incrementally better off than they began it.

In a session marred unforgettably by the tragic loss of principled and magnetic Assembly Education Committee Chairman Tyrone Thompson, final policy impacts represented neither the best nor worst of times. Nevadans’ educational opportunities will not be dramatically altered as a result of the past 120 days. There were some modest improvements, which include:

  • An overhaul modernization of the “Nevada Plan,” our five-decades-old public school funding formula, represented useful progress and a meaningful step toward improving equity in educational opportunities for all students, including those attending the most underperforming schools. As always, details of the plan’s implementation, and funding transparency will likely prove crucially important.  Our main recommendations focused on improving funding definitions for at-risk students for more usefully addressing Nevada’s particular areas of need, and codifying funding parity for charter school students.
  • The contraction of Nevada’s tiny and universally popular Opportunity Scholarship Program — while good news for the 2,300 lower income students statewide currently receiving scholarships, it was regrettably unfortunate that the legislature decided to cut off opening the program to new students (for the most part).
  • Charter school students in Nevada will generally be better off, with initial steps taken to improve funding parity with other public school students, a more strategic new oversight framework, and a talented new leader in State Public Charter School Authority Director Rebecca Feiden.

This session was also characterized by successfully escaping other, problematic policy changes, some of them coming from well-intended decisionmakers:

  • A proposed moratorium to block the opening of new public charter schools was averted, and we are pleased with our role having helped improve the resulting strategic oversight plan with a focus on successfully serving more of the students who need quality charters most.
  • While we are disappointed at the elimination of the Achievement School District, we are glad that our recommendations for the smooth and seamless transition of the four current and two approved schools it operated to a new home at the State Charter School Authority.
  • Legislative leaders’ abrupt choice to strip provisions of the popular Education Savings Account program will not hurt any current students because funding was never enacted. It will cost Nevadans, or at least delay, the potential nexus of innovative learning opportunities.

Nevada Action for School Options’ founder and president Don Soifer noted, “We need to remember that the last-day plan driven by leadership of each chamber is built on what are widely understood to be dubious foundations, shakily-constructed in Nevada’s constitution. Policy details matter when in comes to their supporting quality educational opportunities, and many of those details are still taking shape.”

Soifer continued, “The likely outcome will be a series of court decisions in the coming months, which just might pull the rug out from much of what was resolved in the final days of the session.

“Our first-ever legislative session sharpened our commitment to advancing quality educational opportunities equitably for all Nevada students and will remain just as fervent as ever in the months and years to come.”

Finally, the real highlight of this session was the admirable and capable of a diverse collection of leaders from across Nevada’s education spectrum, from proven champions like Senator Scott Hammond and Clark County Black Caucus Chair Yvette Willliams to emerging advocates for quality schools like Kris Schneider, chairman of the new Nevada Council for American Private Education; Mater Academy charter school leader for equity Renee Fairless and brand new, innovative lawmaker and high school teacher Selena Torres.

Watch our email, Twitter and Facebook updates as developments happen.