Posts Tagged ‘Race to the Top’

Carson School District Wins Race To Top Funding

By Sean Whaley | 11:16 am December 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Department of Education announced today that 16 applicants, including the Carson City School District, will share nearly $400 million in Race to the Top funds to improve student learning.

The award will mean up to $10 million to the district. An application submitted by the Clark County School District did not receive funding.

One comment on the Carson application said in part: “The Carson City School District provides a very strong, comprehensive, and coherent plan for the revision of the district school system.”

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

“Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education.”

The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., congratulated the district on the award.

“This is wonderful news for Carson City’s students, teachers and parents” he said. “As someone whose life was transformed by teachers, I understand the importance of providing all Nevadans with the opportunity to receive a quality education. While I wish that other school districts in the state were also awarded this grant, I know these funds will help put Carson’s students on a path towards success.”

Sandoval Disappointed At Teachers Union For Blocking Grant Request

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:18 pm October 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he is disappointed by the leadership of the Clark County Education Association for blocking a $40 million school district application for federal Race to the Top funds.

“The Race to the Top federal grant can be used to hire additional teachers and provide much-needed support to some of our most at-risk students,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I am particularly supportive of the district’s plan to use technology and early-intervention strategies to help the district’s growing number of English language learners catch up to their peers faster.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval said he had a discussion with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today, and was advised that the deadline for Race to the Top grant applications has been extended until Friday.

“It is important we take advantage of every opportunity to provide much-needed relief to our schools and our children and I urge the Clark County Education Association to reconsider its position and work with the School District on Clark County’s application,” he said. “If necessary, I will personally meet with CCEA and the school district to get this done for our children.”

Las Vegas news media, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported Tuesday that the Clark County School District’s application for a share of the $400 million in Race to the Top funds was derailed by the lack of support from the union, which has been at odds with the district over pay and benefits.


Nevada Out Of Running For New Federal Race To The Top Funds

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm April 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada is out of the running for next round of federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funds to improve early childhood education.

Nevada submitted its application in November 2011.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced today that $133 million from the 2012 Race to the Top fund will be available for continued investments in state-level, comprehensive early education reform.

The agencies have invited the next five applicants from the Fiscal Year 2011 slate – Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin – to apply for a share of the funds.

“The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge has demonstrated the dedication among states and early education and child development experts to raise the bar on early learning,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Continuing to support states with 2012 funding will help build on the momentum from the 2011 competition, and engage more states in furthering their critical work to transition effective early learning programs into systems of excellence.”

In 2011, 35 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico applied to Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, creating plans that increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families, and provide more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation needed to succeed in school and beyond. In December 2011, nine states were awarded grants: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

Eligibility for 2012 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding was based on the strength of applications among states that participated but did not receive awards in the 2011 competition. New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Illinois and Wisconsin each earned approximately 75 percent or more of total points possible on a 300-point scale in the 2011 competition. The five states will each be eligible to apply for up to 50 percent of last year’s potential award amount.

Following the 2011 competition, the U.S. Department of Education conducted a thorough review of applicant and reviewer feedback, as well as reviewers’ scores and comments. The review found minor scoring inconsistencies for seven states: Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Wisconsin.

These discrepancies did not have an effect on the 2011 competition. Nonetheless, the department consulted with the original peer reviewer in each case, and as a result, scores changed slightly for five states: Hawaii was 135.2 and has been revised to 125.2; Kentucky was 208.4 and has been revised to 207.2; Massachusetts was 267 and has been revised to 257; New Mexico was 236 and has been revised to 236.2; and Wisconsin was 234 and has been revised to 224. The overall score did not change for Nevada or New York.

Nevada ranked 29th among those submitting applications.

Nevada also missed out on race to the top funding for its public education system in 2010.

Nevada Ranks 5th Best Among States For Doing Business, Says Survey Of Executives

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:57 pm October 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A survey of more than 600 chief executive officers who rated the best and worst states for business in 2010 has scored Nevada highly at fifth place, an improvement of one spot over 2009.

In Chief Executive magazine’s latest annual survey of CEOs for their opinions of the best and worst states for business, Texas placed first and California ranked last.

Business leaders were asked to draw upon their direct experience to rate each state in three general categories: taxation and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment. Within each category respondents graded states in five subcategories, as well as ranking each in terms of its importance to the respondent and how individual states measure up in the magazine’s sixth annual special report.

Nevada received an A- for its taxation and regulation policies and laws, and a B- for its workforce quality and living environment.

Texas fares competitively with Nevada and Delaware in terms of taxation and regulatory environment, but scored best overall, in no small measure because of the perception that its government’s attitude to business is ideal, the magazine reported.

In an interview on the Fox Business channel, Chief Executive magazine Editor-in-Chief, J.P. Donlon said California has ranked last for the past five years. The attitude towards business is worst in California, he said. Many CEOs would pick up and relocate if they could, Donlon said.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, said the fact that Nevada is maintaining its pro-business image is good news for the state.

“We now have workers available, we have housing available, we have commercial and industrial space available, we have reasonable taxes (although that could change) and we have speedy permitting processes and approvals in most areas,” he said.

The rankings for Texas and California come as no surprise, Bacon said. Texas has created about half of all the new jobs in the nation during this recession, while the attitude of California’s government toward business is legendary, he said.

Election day will be critical to see if Californians wake up or not, Bacon said.

“If they don’t, they will go further into the ditch and keep Nevada in the depths of our recession in the process,” he said.

“We have an education challenge, but the Race to the Top application provides a path to correct our problems in that area if the next governor, Legislature and school districts take serious action to move forward on the implementation even without the federal money,” Bacon said.

ACLU Objects to Closed Meeting (and I question the ideological diversity) of Gibbons’ Education Task Force

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:29 am March 23rd, 2010

You may or may not have heard that the ACLU objected to the Governor’s education task force meeting in private last week (that was the Friday meeting at the Wynn to which I earlier referred here).

The governor’s office disagrees with the ACLU due in part to this AG opinion last week (Hat Tip: Ralston):

I have reviewed the Governor’s Executive Order creating the Blue Ribbon Task Force to advise him on budget issues for the next biennium and to facilitate the application for federal funding pursuant to Race to the Top.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force, as described in the Executive Order, is not a public body subject to the OML. It will be appointed by the Governor (the Governor is not an entity subject to the OML: see §3.02, OML Manual) and secondly, the BRTF will make recommendations only to the Governor. (see §3.04, OML Manual) Committee is subject to OML where parent is a public body and it appoints a committee who is tasked to make recommendations to parent. Such is not the case here.

George H. Taylor

Senior Deputy Attorney General

My question is this:  Why not open the meetings up regardless of the legalities?  What possible reason could there be for keeping these meetings closed?  If the purpose of the panel is to (1) help the state figure out how to competently process its way through the Race to the Top application and (2) come up with ideas to reform our sorry educational system, why can’t the public sit in?

I have other questions, too, some of which the governor’s spokesperson, Dan Burns, answered last week (but not really to my satisfaction, as follows):

Burns said panel members were chosen from “every segment of society” and “every walk of life” and that the panel is not “a political group” but a place for “fresh ideas” that will “make educational reform recommendations to the governor.” I’d really love to believe that – but if new ideas are really what they are after, why is there so little diversity of background and ideology on the panel?

I see one known empowerment school and one charter school advocate, one guy who believes in Florida-style reform (if you did not know it, Florida is kicking all the other states’ butts when it comes to measured improvements over the past decade) and one conservative senator who in the past has spoken in favor of choice via vouchers/scholarships and charter schools (but doesn’t support empowerment).

Why are there no panel members from the Business Educational Alliance for the Children of Nevada (BEACON), NPRI, the Nevada Innovative Coalition for Education (NICE), the Council for a Better Nevada, any of the state’s private schools or anyone repesenting the home-schooling peeps?  We couldn’t even pick 2 or 3 panelists with ties to these groups?

Yet:  we do have a higher ed guy, the superintendent of Nevada’s public schools, the head of Nye County’s public schools, the head of Washoe County’s public schools, the head of Douglas County’s public schools, a former university regent and teachers union endorsed candidate for CD-2 in the last two election cycles, a public school teacher from Clark County, a Washoe County public school teacher, a public school teacher from Lyon County, a Clark County public school principal, the president of the Nevada PTA, and the head of the Nevada teachers union.

Does that list look like people from “every segment of society” and “every walk of life” to you?  I’m not saying there should be NO representation from the public school system, but the ratio looks pretty lopsided.  So, color me skeptical on the whole “fresh ideas” thing.

Governor Formally Announces Blue Ribbon Education Panel

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:42 pm March 15th, 2010

Via press release, more details from the governor’s office re: the new blue ribbon education panel:


(Carson City, Nevada) – Governor Jim Gibbons signed an Executive Order today forming the Blue Ribbon Education Reform Task Force to guide and oversee Nevada’s Race to the Top application and to facilitate public and private discussion and consensus for overall reform of public education for Nevada’s children.

“This Task Force will merge new ideas with proven methods to propel Nevada’s education delivery system to new heights,” Gibbons said, “The group will create a path to prepare Nevada’s students to be the intellectual infrastructure for our future.”

Gibbons plans to enlist the help of the public and private sector for this important project. Nevada’s state, private industry and nonprofit leaders  will work together to ensure a successful state application for the Race to the Top competition and to effect long-term K-12 and higher education reform. Experts and stakeholders in K-12 and higher education, government, technology, and business must work together as a team to ensure our education system succeeds both in educating our children and in providing the background and skills necessary for the current and future job markets in Nevada.

Well-known supporter of education and entrepreneur Elaine Wynn and Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich have been named co-chairs of the Task Force.

Other members include:  Senator Barbara Cegavske; Assemblywoman Debbie Smith; State Board of Education Chairman Chris Wallace; Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault; Nye County School District Superintendent William “Rob” Roberts; Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison; Acting Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman; former Regent Jill Derby; Joyce Haldeman, Assistant Superintendent, Clark County School District; DJ Allen, Imagine Marketing; Ray Bacon, President, Nevada Manufacturing Association; Pam Hicks, Regional Professional Development Program; Dr. Sonya Horsford, UNLV; Dana Lee, President, Nevada Women’s Philanthropy; Cherri Luna, classroom teacher in Clark County; Punam Mathur, Vice President Human Resources, NV Energy; Ronald Montoya, Principal, Clark County School District; Maureen Peckman, Cleveland Clinic; Karen Pedersen, classroom teacher in Lyon County; Gina Polovina, Vice President Community Relations and Government Affairs, Boyd Gaming; Michele Robinson, President, Nevada Charter School Association; Allison Serafin, Executive Director, Teach for America; Nancy Smith, Datanamics; Diane Sumner, classroom teacher in Washoe County; Alison Turner, President, Nevada Parent Teacher Association; Gintas Vildzius, Vice President Global Energy, GE Energy; and Lynn Warne, President, Nevada State Education Association.

The responsibilities of the Task Force include:

* Providing state leadership and coordination of the Race to the Top application and ensure its timely submission by June 1, 2010;

* Facilitating discussion and consensus among public and private stakeholders in building a knowledge base of “lessons learned” to facilitate the Race to the Top application;

* Encouraging public and private involvement in a review of Nevada’s education infrastructure and recommendation of measures designed to ensure that we are providing a fair and appropriate education that will support the future of our state and diversification of our economy;

* Facilitating a statewide dialogue on reform of our public education delivery system;

* Consulting with relevant stakeholders to develop a plan to improve the results of our state’s public education system, from K-12 through higher education; and

Developing legislative and regulatory recommendations supporting the mission that may address, among other matters, governance, academic standards, teacher performance and resource allocation.

The Task Force will submit two items to Governor Gibbons: the completed Nevada Race to the Top application no later than May 21, 2010, and, no later than November 19, 2010, its recommendations regarding revisions to state laws and regulations relating to education reform and related funding for inclusion in the Governor’s Executive Budget for Fiscal Years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

“The Task Force members have the innovation and determination to modernize Nevada’s education system and provide the workforce for our future,” Gibbons said, “I look forward to receiving the ideas and input from this talented group of individuals.”

The Task Force will have its first meeting on Friday, March 19, 2010.

Governor Will Not Veto Race to the Top Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:48 pm February 26th, 2010

A source inside Governor Gibbon’s office today said Gibbons will not veto the Race to the Top education bill passed Wednesday evening by the state Senate and Assembly during the special session of the Legislature.

A Gibbons spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review Journal yesterday that he intended to veto the bill because some language in it would prevent the state from securing a $175 million federal grant that would help Nevada schools.

The Assembly voted 42-0 and the Senate voted 16-5 to change a state law that so far has prevented Nevada from applying for the grant. Five of the nine Senate Republicans voted against the bill on grounds that language in it might lead the federal Department of Education to reject the state application for a grant.

The governor’s legal team still believes the language in the bill may cause it to be rejected, said the source, but Gibbons has decided to sign the bill with the intention of trying to work with the DOE for grant approval and to show his commitment to putting education first both in this special session and the state.

Strategy to Avoid Gibbons Vetoes on Tap if Needed

By Sean Whaley | 11:36 am February 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Because of the tense relationship between the Legislature and Gov. Jim Gibbons over how to find $900 million to balance the state budget, strategies on how to ensure bills are not vetoed after lawmakers adjourn the special session are ready if needed.

If the Legislature adjourns the special session and Gibbons vetoes one or more bills, the measures could not be considered for an override by lawmakers until the 2011 regular session. A two-thirds vote in both houses is required to override a veto.

Gibbons has already announced his intentions to veto the Race to the Top measure giving Nevada the ability to compete for up to $175 million in federal funds to improve student achievement. The measure, Senate Bill 2, contains language Gibbons opposes.

Gibbons has also said he will veto bills that do not meet his standards for new fees the Legislature may impose to balance the budget. Gibbons has said he will veto such measures unless they meet with the approval of those who must pay the new revenues.

Lawmakers are looking at increased gaming fees, among other proposals.

Gibbons vetoed a record number of bills in the 2009 session. Many were overridden by the Legislature but others were sustained.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said all potential contingencies have been explored to ensure some key piece of legislation needed to balance the budget does not end up vetoed, leaving a hole in the spending plan that Gibbons might then deal with on his own after lawmakers have left town.

“We’re not going to adjourn,” Horsford said with a laugh when asked. “We’ve discussed all of our options. We’re here to get the job done, and we have thought through what all of the potential problems may be.”

Rather than adjourn the session “sine die” and allow the potential veto scenario to arise, Horsford said the Senate, in agreement with the Assembly, can adjourn for a set number of days and then return to the capital to override any vetoed bills if need be.

Gibbons has five days to veto a bill, not counting the day the bill was transmitted to his office, and not counting Sundays. So if the Legislature finishes its special session on Sunday, Gibbons would have until Friday to veto a measure.

Horsford said the Legislature continues to try to work with Gibbons to avoid such a scenario.

“We’re always working towards that goal; whether he sees the value in working with us is another story,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he is not aware of any such strategy discussions.

“I’m more concerned about doing what we need to do than political strategy,” he said.

“The governor has as much stake as the Legislature in dealing with this shortfall,” Raggio said. “I wouldn’t think anybody would want to put obstacles to meet the constitutional requirement to balancing a budget.”

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the Legislature has used such an adjournment process before. In the 21st special session, when the impeachment of the late Controller Kathy Augustine was under way, the session began in November. The Legislature then adjourned until December to give Augustine a chance to prepare a defense to the charges.

Malkiewich, who is an attorney, said he also disagrees with the position of Gibbons that the governor has the authority to set a time to end a special session. That authority rests with the Legislature, he said.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor “knows” he has the right to set an ending time for the session, and he has directed lawmakers to finish by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. Any bills that are passed after that time would not even be considered valid bills, he said.

There is an existing attorney general opinion supporting his position, Burns said.

Rather than worry about end strategies, the Legislature should just move quickly to balance the budget and address the pressing issues, he said.

“Every day they meet is another laid off state worker,” Burns said.

The session is costing $50,000 a day.

Gibbons Administration Says Nevada Too Late for First Round of Federal School Improvement Funds

By Sean Whaley | 10:21 am December 17th, 2009

CARSON CITY – A Gibbons administration official said today the deadline to submit a letter of intent to seek federal funds to improve student performance in the first phase of a competitive grant program has already passed.

Stacy Woodbury, deputy chief of staff to Jim Gibbons, said the U.S. Department of Education informed her on Friday that 34 states had already submitted letters of intent to seek a share of the “Race to the Top” funds in Phase I and that the deadline to submit such letters of intent had passed.

Woodbury, in testimony to the Legislative Committee on Education, said Gibbons also disagrees with the suggestion made last week by state Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, that Nevada should try to apply in the first of two phases for the funds.

Horsford expressed concern that not applying for the funds immediately could lead to a lost opportunity for Nevada students.

Gibbons agrees with other lawmakers that Nevada should take the time to write the best application possible for funding in Phase 2 due by June, Woodbury said.

“Nevada is not ready for Phase I,” Woodbury said. “Phase II presents the best opportunity for Nevada to make a comprehensive, thoughtful, quality application for the Race to the Top program.”

There is no loss of funding at stake for Nevada if it misses the first round. States can apply in the first round or the second, but they cannot get funding in both rounds.

Nevada potentially could be eligible for $175 million in the one-time federal funds to help students improve, but a current state law prohibiting the use of student performance measures to evaluate teachers precludes the state from eligibility.

Gibbons has said he will call a special session by June to repeal the law, approved in a special session of the Legislature in 2003, so Nevada can apply for the funds in Phase II.

Woodbury said Gibbons is in agreement with lawmakers and others that student test scores should not be the only criterion used for teacher evaluations.

State Senate Majority Leader Urges Nevada Officials To Immediately Seek Federal Funds to Improve Nevada Schools

By Sean Whaley | 1:18 pm December 11th, 2009

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, urged a legislative panel today to push Nevada to apply in the first round of federal Race to the Top funds to improve student performance by a Jan. 19, 2010 deadline.

Even if the state is not successful in getting a competitive grant in the first round, there would be a critique of the state’s application that would assist in improving the document to win funding in the second round in June, he said.

“Those funds would help us move our state forward with much needed improvements in our K-12 education system, enhancing our children’s skills in critical fields such as science and mathematics, as well as offering more help to schools that are struggling to meet academic standards,” Horsford said. “Race to the Top also can help us buffer our education system from the effects of a protracted recession.”

Horsford made his comments to the Legislative Committee on Education, which met to get a briefing on the state’s efforts to win federal funding that could total as much as $175 million in one-time funds.

Some members of the legislative panel disagreed with Horsford, however, suggesting that waiting to apply in the second round would give the state the time to produce a better and more competitive application.

Horsford acknowledged that a one-day special legislative session would be needed to repeal a state law that now prohibits Nevada from applying for the federal funding and that only Gov. Jim Gibbons can call lawmakers to the capital.

Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction, said it would be difficult for the state Department of Education and the state’s 17 school districts to prepare a competitive grant application by the January deadline.

There is no loss of funding at stake for Nevada if it misses the first round. States can apply in the first round or the second, but they cannot get funding in both rounds.

Horsford said the Legislative Committee on Education should also come up with language agreeable to all interest groups to change the Nevada law that now precludes the state from applying for the funds.

A 2003 law passed by the Nevada Legislature precludes the use of student achievement data in rating the performance of teachers which makes the state ineligible to apply for the federal Race to the Top funds.

Gibbons has said he will call a special session by June to seek repeal of the law so the state can apply for Round 2 funding.

The Nevada State Education Association has proposed an alternative that the association says would make the state eligible for the funding. The proposal would subject teacher evaluations to mandatory local collective bargaining discussions.

Joyce Haldeman, representing the Clark County School District, said the best option is to repeal the 15 words now in state law that bars the state from using student achievement to evaluate teachers. Any other alternative could put the state’s efforts to get a share of the funds at risk, she said.

Rheault said he agrees with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that the teachers’ union proposal is “not optimal” for the state to receive funding.

U.S. Secretary of Education Questions Teachers Union Proposal to Make Nevada Eligible for School Improvement Funds

By Sean Whaley | 2:23 pm December 9th, 2009

CARSON CITY – The secretary of the U.S. Department of Education has told the Gibbons Administration the language proposed by the Nevada state teachers union to change a state law to make the state eligible for as much as $170 million in federal school improvement funds is “not optimal.”

Stacy Woodbury, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, had a conversation with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday and communicated the conversation to Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of a legislative panel that oversees federal stimulus funding in Nevada.

Nevada is not now eligible for a share of the “Race to the Top” funds because of a state law passed in 2003 that prohibits student performance to be used in the evaluation of teachers.

Gibbons said he will call a special session of the Legislature by June to change the law to make Nevada eligible for the funds. Gibbons wants the law repealed in its entirety.

The Nevada State Education Association has published draft language that would change the state law to allow local school districts to negotiate the use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers.

Lynn Warne, president of the union, said the language was drafted with the assistance of the staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and would not have been proposed if it was not believed to be acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education.

Woodbury said she advised Duncan of the proposed teacher union language, who then replied that it was not optimal. She said Duncan believes that student achievement scores should be a major factor in evaluating teachers.

Woodbury said today that Duncan did not say the teachers union solution was absolutely incompatible with obtaining Race to the Top funds.

But if using student performance data to evaluate teachers is considered a good way to improve education in Nevada, why not just repeal the law, she said.

The issue should not be about doing the bare minimum to become eligible for the funding, Woodbury said.

“It should be about making our educational system better for our kids,” she said.

The Nevada Legislative Committee on Education on Friday will hear from a representative of the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the teachers union and others, on the Race to the Top funding issue.

Special Session of Nevada Legislature On Tap by June

By Sean Whaley | 3:20 pm December 3rd, 2009
(Corrected at 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 3.)
CARSON CITY – An official with the Gibbons administration said today there will be a special session of the Legislature by June to repeal a Nevada law that is keeping the state from going after millions of dollars in federal funds to improve schools.

Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, said the state law must be changed so Nevada can go after a share of the “Race to the Top” federal funds for schools. As much as $175 million could be available, he said.

Hettrick said Nevada did not apply for the first round of funding because of the current law and because the state Department of Education determined the amount of money Nevada might receive was not cost effective.

“We must change the law,” Hettrick said. “We will be eligible for round two in June.”

The Legislature in 2003 passed a law saying student achievement cannot be a factor used for teacher evaluations. This makes Nevada ineligible for the Race to the Top funds.

The Legislature is required to act to amend the law. The Nevada State Education Association has proposed language to change the law that should make the state eligible for the funds, and Hettrick said that is a good starting point for discussion.

But Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor doesn’t just want to craft a law that will make Nevada eligible for the federal funds. Gibbons wants the current law repealed, he said.

“To say you can’t use student performance to evaluate teachers is ridiculous,” Burns said. “Student performance will be an integral part of teacher evaluations because that is what is best for Nevada students.”

Whatever the resolution, an agreement will be worked out beforehand so that the session does not go on any longer than a day or two, Burns said. They are too expensive to let go longer, he said.

Hettrick said the revenue and spending problems facing the state are a separate issue that continues to be analyzed. It may take several weeks to assess whether a special session will be needed to balance the state budget, he said. If a session is needed, the law change for the education funds can be done at the same time.

“The revenue numbers are terrible,” Hettrick said. “We all know it.”

The various state agency chiefs have been asked to analyze what cuts of 1.4 percent and 3 percent would mean to their programs. No cuts have yet been made.

“The governor is asking everyone to think seriously about what these levels of cuts would mean,” he said. “What has to go away.”

The last thing the administration wants to do is cut state jobs because that will just add more people to the ranks of the unemployed, Hettrick said.

The Economic Forum, a panel of private sector appointees who make the official state revenue estimates, may be brought in for its analysis as well, he said.

“We are trying our very best to analyze how to attack this without losing jobs and minimizing the impacts to state government programs,” Hettrick said. “It is very complex.”

Teachers Union Working to Make Nevada Eligible for Federal Education Funds

By Sean Whaley | 1:09 pm December 2nd, 2009
(Updated at 4:03 p.m. on Dec. 2.)
CARSON CITY – The president of the Nevada teachers’ union says her group is working with key lawmakers and stakeholders to craft changes to a state law to allow Nevada to seek federal stimulus dollars aimed at improving student achievement.

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, said in an interview on Nevada NewsMakers on Monday that it is important for Nevada to be able to compete for the “Race to the Top” funds.

The 2003 Legislature passed a law that does not allow student achievement data to be used in evaluating teacher performance. As a result, the state is not eligible to compete for the funds.

Warne said the proposed change in Nevada law would allow teacher evaluations, which could include student performance, to be subject to local bargaining negotiations. The proposed language is acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education and would allow Nevada to apply for a share of the $4.3 billion in federal funds, she said.

The draft language of the proposed change to the law was posted today on the association’s website.

Student performance is important in looking at a teacher’s effectiveness, but it should not be the only criterion for teacher evaluations, Warne said.

“It is a part of a very large and complex picture and we agree with that,” she said.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, said she would require independent verification that the teachers’ association proposal is acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education before supporting such a change in state law.

If a special session is called because of the budget and the Race to the Top funding issue is brought to lawmakers, Parnell said she would immediately request such confirmation.

“It is a matter of everybody coming on board and feeling secure that whatever we do puts us in the competition,” she said.

Parnell said she has other concerns about the program, however, including the further intrusion of the federal government into the operation of public schools. School issues are best handled at the local level, she said.

Warne said today that the proposed language was formulated with the assistance of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s staff, and that it would not be presented if there was any doubt it would satisfy the requirements for funding.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has said changing the law is a priority for him if he must call the Legislature into special session to deal with the state budget.

Today Reid, D-Nev., also weighed in and urged Gibbons to take up the issue if a special legislative session is called.

Warne said the language at issue in state law was part of Nevada’s response to the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and received bipartisan support from lawmakers in a special legislative session in 2003.