Boulder City Chamber of Commerce is one of six Southern Nevada chambers of commerce that endorsed the Community Schools Initiative that would split up the Clark County School District if voters approve it in 2024.
Also endorsing the initiative Sept. 15 were the Las Vegas chamber, Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Urban Chamber of Commerce and Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.
“Finding what is best for the children of Southern Nevada should be the No. 1 goal,” said Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City chamber. “With the proposed bill, options open up the discussion of what this might look like.”
Clark County, the fifth-largest school district in the country with approximately 300,000 students, has recently faced concerns over low rankings nationally, school safety and talks of being placed into receivership.
The initiative aims to revamp Nevada’s “outdated and underperforming K-12 education system” by allowing for cities and municipalities to form school districts that would be “smaller and more responsive to the needs of the communities they serve,” the initiative’s statement said.
“A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t responsive to the different needs of areas outside of urban Las Vegas. Allowing for smaller districts that put decision-making closer to the local level will be a positive step forward in the hard conversations and possible actions of improving the entire school system in Southern Nevada,” Rowland-Lagan said.
“Raising student achievement is essential for the future of Nevada. This petition will compel legislators to address the state’s archaic governance of our school system and give communities more options to meet the educational needs of its students,” said Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Vegas Chamber in a statement.
Jesus Jara, superintendent of the district, pushed back, calling those efforts “bias-based fiction” that would abandon students with the most needs.
In an email sent to the school community Friday, Sept. 15, Jara said these efforts were not new and would do nothing to address student performance.
“This current effort is based not on facts but on a bias-based fiction predicated on ignoring the evidence,” he wrote. “The size of the student population does not matter; what matters is the size of the state’s financial commitment to its children.”
Nevada rates average in the nation when it comes to K-12 academic achievement, despite “inadequate” per-pupil funding, according to Jara.
The ballot initiative is in the signature-gathering phase and will qualify for the November 2024 ballot once it collects 140,777 valid signatures. The Nevada Legislature could also pass the initiative in its 2023 session, according to the Community Schools Initiative.
If approved, local governing bodies could “opt out” of a county district and create their own by passing a resolution or ordinance that would be subject to voter approval.
The initiative would allow a new district to begin operating within two years. The new school district would retain previously allocated funding, honor existing contracts and function under the state Board of Education, however it would have its own board of trustees.
Local principals were unable to comment on the initiative at this time.
Review-Journal staff writers Jessica Hill and Lorraine Longhi contributed to this report.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.