Nevada lawmakers fail to OK federal schools plan

Legislation bringing Nevada into compliance with federal education requirements failed to win final approval from state lawmakers as the 2003 session ended at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The No Child Left Behind Act passed by Congress in 2001 holds schools accountable for student achievement. States must devise and offer tests in reading and mathematics for every child each year in grades three through eight, beginning in fall 2005. Under current law, states are required to test students in reading and math three times during their K-12 years.

Every state is required to submit to the federal Education Department its plan to add accountability and other changes. The department has approved plans by 20 states, many of which are to be implemented through regulatory changes.

Because Nevada already had so many testing and accountability requirements in statute -- many different from federal law -- the state couldn't win approval from the federal government without SB191.

The Senate previously scaled back the original measure's cost and ambitious scope, and Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, went even further with amendments adopted Monday by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. They mandated the state use a 1999 math test instead of a 2001 version, and pared down language not required by the federal Education Department.

The revised 116-page measure sought to implement federal law and new testing timelines, and limits consequences for poor performance -- including low student test scores -- to about a quarter of Nevada schools.

Such consequences, ranging up to closure of a school, would take effect only in federally funded Title I schools. Most are in the Las Vegas area.

School districts and the state Department of Education had estimated passage of SB191 will cost the state $12.7 million over the upcoming two years.

Nevada expects the federal government to help fund the most expensive required changes, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. But many federal and state lawmakers have complained states won't get enough money.


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