LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Department of Education says it’s ready to take over the Clark County School District for failing to comply with a sweeping decentralization law meant to give schools more power. individual.

Las Vegas-based district officials acknowledge some shortcomings, but say they are “essentially” following the 5-year-old law. They accuse the state of going too far and telling a damaging false narrative, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

“We are, as far as we are concerned, two, maybe one last piece of compliance,” Kellie Kowal-Paul, district strategy manager, said during a meeting between the school district and school district officials. state in May. “There is frustration in misinterpretation, but by no means an open challenge to conformity.”

The Nevada Board of Education, with the support of State Superintendent of Instruction Jhone Ebert, has been working steadily on the takeover since late 2021 to force CCSD into compliance with the law.


The potential worst-case scenario is receivership, where a state-appointed third-party manager would have the power to overrule decisions by Clark County Schools Superintendent Jesus Jara and the school board regarding decentralization.

Mark Newburn, a member of the state board of trustees, said the department is serious and the state attorney general’s office has agreed that the state education department has the power to to intervene.

“The superintendent, they believe, could put the district into receivership next week, but the intention is not to do so,” Newburn said at the May meeting. “The intention is to expose this whole process.”

THE REORGANIZATION LAW

In 2015, the Nevada Legislature passed legislation giving Clark County school principals more control over schools and budgets. State lawmakers in 2017 with Assembly Bill 469, detailing how the Clark County School District would institute the power shift beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

“Large school districts are prone to developing large, complex and potentially inefficient, cumbersome and insensitive bureaucracies that tend to become overly dependent on a centralized operating model where most decision-making is done by central departments,” said the law.

Wording in the bill said the top-down structure “could result in an entrenched and inflexible operating paradigm” that failed to take into account “the particular, specialized or localized circumstances, needs and concerns of each local school district.”

The law targets “large school districts” with at least 100,000 students, making it applicable statewide only to the Las Vegas-based district, the fifth-largest in the nation with more than 300,000 students and 350 schools.

The Reorganization Act gives headteachers the power to select teachers and most other school staff, balance their site budgets, and procure most equipment, services, and supplies.

The law also created School Organization Teams — a mix of staff and parents who oversee school operations and budgets — and required that 85% of unrestricted district funds be allocated to individual schools. Only 15% of the dollars could be used for centrally controlled and funded purposes.

The school district’s central office retains control of buses, food services, payroll, information technology, utilities, police services, union negotiations, building maintenance, and services child care, capital projects, and administration of certain federally guaranteed programs, including special education.

The laws give the state education department the authority to enforce the reorganization.

State takeovers, or at least the possibility of them, are common in the United States

In May, Massachusetts refused to take over Boston’s public schools, but lawmakers made it clear they wanted improvements after a state report highlighted issues with school violence, buses, d special education, English learning programs and central office bureaucracy.

In Arizona, the state school board can place a district in receivership for insolvency or gross mismanagement. Arizona law also allows the state board to fire the district superintendent and chief financial officer.

Michigan law allows for state “liaisons” to help districts navigate state rules. New York licenses monitors for academic and financial monitoring.

STEPS TOWARDS SEJECTION

Receivership is a five-step process, according to a potential sequence the Education Department drafted in May:

• State issues notice of non-compliance to school district

• State develops and institutes a “Corrective Action Plan” and appoints a “Compliance Monitor”. The school district would pay for this monitor.

• Supervisor evaluations would be on the school board’s agenda for six months.

• If the district is still not in compliance after this time, the district superintendent and school board chair will have a hearing before the Nevada Board of Education. Based on this hearing, the state superintendent would decide whether the district should be placed in full or partial receivership.

• If the state superintendent appoints a receiver, the position is paid for by the district. The receiver would make decisions to comply with decentralization and would have extensive access to district personnel and operations. This includes the ability to reorganize policies, regulations, budgets, departments and negotiate employment contracts.

The district must be in compliance for at least 30 days before being placed out of receivership.

WHAT ELSE THE STATE SAYS

In September, the Department of Education listed several “needs to address” issues.

They included the ability of principals to select staff, as well as the associated language in teacher and support staff collective bargaining units allowing principals’ autonomy; and the purchase of equipment, services, and supplies, whether school-selected or district-provided.

State officials cite a line in the legislation that says the state superintendent “shall take such actions as deemed necessary and appropriate to ensure that each major school district proceeds with the reorganization.”

In January, Newburn said, “We’ll probably need more than good intentions” for the Clark County School District to fully comply.

“Hopefully we can finally hire the administrators and bring the district into compliance — but there’s also a very good chance that won’t happen,” he said. “The district has repeatedly, I would say almost brazenly, indicated that they have some sort of power to determine which law they would like to follow or not.”

In May, Clark County School Board member Lola Brooks told Newburn that no one from the state had asked to meet with the board members because so much work was being done behind the scenes, “he’s very easy for you to exploit a narrative in this way”.

WHAT ELSE THE DISTRICT IS SAYING

The CCSD admits that principals do not have the power to select their staff as provided by law.

In a September progress report to the state superintendent, legislature and governor, the district pinned that on the teachers and support staff unions.

The Reorganization Act “puts authority in the hands of the principal, but current collective agreements for certified educators and support professionals essentially place authority in the hands of the employee,” the report said.

In a May letter to Ebert acquired by The Sun, Jara said the district tried “expressly” to have the employment contracts reflect the law, but the unions refused without “substantial limitations” on the ability of the workers. directors to select employees.

The district also says it is “possibly compliant” to achieve the 85% to 15% funding balance.

It’s close, with about 79% of funds going to individual schools for the next fiscal year. But a document prepared by Clark County school administrators for its May joint meeting says it will be extremely difficult to achieve the 85/15 split.

Everything else is online, including the ability for directors to purchase their own services and roll over unspent funds to the next year, the district argues.

Kowal-Paul, whose job it is to bring the district into compliance, said in an April letter to the state board that the possibility of receivership could affect CCSD’s ability to fund projects such as the construction and renovation of schools through bonds.

She even disputes the possibility, however.

“The Nevada Legislature did not authorize a full takeover of the Clark County School District to address some (alleged) minor compliance issues,” she wrote.

The state thinks it’s allowed, state counsel Deputy Attorney General David Gardner said at a March meeting of a subcommittee that focuses on decentralization.

“If you’re looking for the word ‘receiver’ it’s not in the statute, but ‘take such action as deemed necessary and appropriate’ is a broad enough term to allow for receivership,” he said.

Ebert, who would be in charge of the final say, said receivership was the last resort and the state was preparing.

“I would rather not even go down that road. If the school district and superintendent comply, then that’s moot. All this work is pointless,” she said. “But if the school district does not comply, we have now set out the actions we would take.”