Education

Highlights of 1997
Education Bills

ere’s the follow-up to last issue’s Ten Years of Educational 'Reform' -- The Dismal Track Record. Hopefully this legislation will be more successful in fixing Nevada’s below-average education system than other legislation of the last decade.

Occupational Education

A.B. 191 changes the name of the fund for the improvement of occupational education to the fund for the school-to-careers program. The State Board of Education is responsible for consulting and setting up the school -to-careers programs within the each district. The bill specifies that the program is voluntary.

Charter Schools

S.B. 220 authorizes the formation of charter schools in Nevada. The bill is very restrictive, the 9th weakest of the nation’s 30 charter laws, because it does not allow flexibility needed to operate successfully. Moreover, existing public and private schools may not convert into charter schools. At present the application process is being designed through the Department of Education.

The Nevada Education Reform Act of 1997

S.B. 482 is the most significant piece of education legislation to come out of the 1997 Legislative Session. Following are its various components:

Accountability

S.B. 482 is the Nevada Education Reform Act of 1997. One section establishes a system to evaluate the performance of public schools through criteria that will place schools into one of three categories: schools demonstrating high achievement; those showing adequate achievement; and those demonstrating inadequate achievement. Criteria for placement includes academic achievement based upon average test scores as well as student and teacher attendance rates. Schools demonstrating inadequate achievement are required to establish an achievement plan and implement remediation programs. Several steps have been designed if the school still performs at below average levels.

Standards and Assessment

The bills created a Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools. The nine-member panel is composed of the President of the State Board of Education, or his designee from the state board, four members appointed by the Governor, and four members including two legislators appointed by legislative leadership. The council is required to review and recommend statewide standards in English, math and science before September 1998. The State Board of Education must adopt standards and statewide tests linked to these standards before January 1999 that will be implemented in the 1999-2000 school year. The second phase will consist of developing standards in art, computer education, health, social studies and physical education. These standards must be adopted by January 2000.

Technology

This part of the bill creates another council called the Commission on Educational Technology. The 11 members serve two-year terms and must each have knowledge and experience in the use of educational technology. Seven members must be selected by the Governor with four members appointed by the Legislature. The Commission is responsible for developing a statewide plan for the use of educational technology within the public schools. The plan is to include such recommendations as how to incorporate technology in the schools, how to improve pupil achievement, how to train teachers and to suggest distribution from the Trust Fund for Educational Technology. Uniform technical standards must also be developed to ensure statewide compatibility.

Legislative Review

S.B. 482 establishes an eight-member Legislative Committee on Education which will consist of four Senators and four Assembly members, appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly. The committee is to review most statewide education programs such as accountability, class-size reduction and automated student records and other fiscal concerns.

Appropriations

Total appropriations to fund the various parts of this bill were $40.8 million. Of this amount $27.5 million is a one-time appropriation for education technology to be used to put computers in the classroom. The remainder of the funding needed to complete this program was not allocated. Also, $8.6 million is to be used for support costs incurred with the new technology program. A $3 million appropriation is included to provide school districts with the funds for programs of remediation for students failing the statewide proficiency exams. The balance, about $1 million, is provided for the costs and operation of the various panels and councils. u


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