CARSON CITY — Superintendents proposed legislation that would create a school modernization commission and would increase the power of local school districts Friday afternoon.
Lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee heard from deputy Washoe County Superintendent Seng-Dao Yang Keo, who presented legislation proposing a new education commission.
“What we’re asking for is essentially a comprehensive assessment. Some call this a review,” she said. “Others might call this an audit. But it’s really an opportunity for us to identify the gaps that exists within the education system, as well as opportunities for us to improve to continuously improve moving forward.”
The commission would “study and make recommendations regarding revisions to the Nevada Revised Statutes and Nevada Administrative Code to improve the efficiency and quality of education in this State” and would consist of each of the superintendents from the state’s school districts, according to the bill’s language.
But lawmakers questioned why the creation of a commission is needed, including Sen. Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
“[Nevada Department of Education] already put out a framework, like 224 pages of just benchmarks and frameworks to consider education. When are we just going to do that work? Look through everything we’ve done already?” Neal said.
Sen. Robin Titus, R-Wellington echoed her fellow senator’s concerns.
“I worry that if we have the data already, isn’t it, in my mind anyway, the job of our state superintendents’ office to be that umbrella for the 17 other different superintendents and kind of put all the information that we already have? Should this be being done already under the state superintendent’s office?” she said.
Keo said efforts had already begun in Washoe County, but said the bill is an effort to foster collaboration between the school districts.
“We are letting you know that we believe that the Nevada education system has been piecemealed in very strategic ways, but all of these pieces don’t actually fit together,” she said. “This really is an opportunity for us to work in collaboration with each other moving forward.”
Lobbyists representing the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and the Nevada Association of School Boards spoke in support of the bill.
Lawmakers also heard a bill that would allow local school districts to ask to be exempted from certain laws in an effort to “make adjustments to better serve our kids,” said Carson City School District Superintendent Andrew Feuling, who presented the bill.
The bill would replace a 2007 law that established Program of Empowerment Schools and would instead create the Program of Empowerment Districts. School districts would be able to propose plans to request a wavier from the State Board of Education to be exempt from laws that “hinder the comprehensive educational and operational program” the school district has developed.
“I think just the reality of how fast our times are changing and there are things that it would be really nice to have the opportunity to be nimble as a school district to make adjustments to better serve our kids, or to try to streamline processes that there may be (in) existing law that inhibits us from doing that sort of thing,” Feuling said.
The Clark County School District would be exempt from the bill, if passed, because of its reorganization enacted by the Legislature in 2017, according to the committee’s legal counsel.
Inspector general for schools
Talk of education wasn’t limited to the Senate. Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, D-Las Vegas, announced Friday that she would be introducing legislation that would create the Office of the Inspector General of Education.
The office would “establish a full-time auditing program to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse” and would submit a quarterly report on its findings to the governor’s office and the director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
“It is our duty as legislators and public servants to build trust with our constituents and ensure that all tax dollars are spent responsibly. My legislation creating the Office of the Inspector General of Education will ensure we prevent fraud and waste of our public education dollars,” Miller said in an emailed statement.
Previous efforts to create a state inspector general — sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans — have been unsuccessful.
Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.