Gov. Kenny Guinn's committee reviewing operations of state government on Thursday questioned whether Nevada would be better off without an elected Board of Education.
The discussion arose during a meeting that also included a vote to recommend breaking up the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety.
The Board of Education issue was raised by committee member Dale Erquiaga, former deputy secretary of state and former director of museums and history. He pointed out that there are elected county school boards, each with staff, as well as the Department of Education. Erquiaga questioned whether the elected state board was really needed.
"The argument can and should be made that the elected board should make policies for the state," said Superintendent of Education Mary Peterson.
Guinn's chief policy adviser, Denice Miller, noted there are 17 elected school boards the public can and does go to.
Elko Superintendent of Schools Marcia Bandera said they have multiple layers of authority over public education, including the state's Committee on Education, the Council to Establish Standards, the Educational Technology Commission and the Commission on Professional Standards for Teachers.
She said all those different committees as well as the Department of Education are helpful to local school boards and officials.
"I don't find that with the State Board of Education," she said.
Jeanne Botts, representing Washoe School District, echoed Bandera's comments "about the state board not being receptive to the input of the school districts."
She said some of those commissions were created by the Legislature because of the state board.
"The Legislature did not feel the state board and the state department had done their jobs, so I think it's important to realize part of this fragmentation we're talking about is the Legislature's attempt to get the job done."
Peterson agreed public education in Nevada has "a very very fragmented governing system and some coherence needs to be brought to the system."
She said she understands that local officials were referring to recent decisions in which the state board disagreed with local school officials on several points.
"In recent decisions it appeared the state board may not have been listening to local districts," she said. "They may have been serving other constituencies."
The committee took no action on the issue, but did vote to divide DMV and Public Safety, which has been discussed before by Gov. Kenny Guinn's administration. There was general agreement that the two functions and their funding sources are so different they don't belong together. DMV includes drivers' licenses, registration and vehicle titling.
Public safety includes primarily law enforcement functions, including the Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Division of Investigations, Parole and Probation, Emergency Management and the Capitol Police.
Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, recommended the split.
Deputy Budget Director Don Hataway told the committee a recent study shows that splitting up the department would be "cost neutral."
But he recommended that the study group not try setting any details since there are several proposals in the works dealing with how DMV should be organized.
One of those, he said, is to put it with the Department of Taxation to begin creation of a state Department of Revenue.
Members agreed to discuss more detailed plans for those different divisions at a future meeting.
Guinn formed the committee to begin a fundamental review of state government and how it operates, looking for ways to improve service and save money.