Education power struggle: Governor or state board

For the past two years, Nevada Board of Education members have complained that there are too many committees, commissions and councils muddling oversight of the K-12 system - and that more responsibility should be shifted back to them.

Some lawmakers agree the existing structure is convoluted, but their solution for streamlining K-12 governance isn't what the state board had in mind.

SB540, drafted by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, would strip the Board of Education of its regulatory authority and authorize the governor to appoint the superintendent of public instruction, who now is elected.

The 140-page bill would deal with long-standing ambiguity over who is ultimately accountable for the success of Nevada's K-12 system, by handing the governor unprecedented control over education policy.

The state board's 10 members would continue to be elected, but the board would be reduced to an advisory council to the state Education Department and the governor's appointed superintendent.

Most of the oversight would be handled by a newly created office within the department with the title "Division of Accountability of Public Schools."

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, chairwoman of the committee that introduced the bill, said the overhaul is needed.

"We're trying to streamline and connect the 17 school districts so it's more compact," Cegavske said. "The way things are now, the governors don't feel connected to the educational process. They should be a part of that."

But Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said the bill is shortsighted.

"You're not just taking authority away from an elected body. You're taking accountability away from the public," Titus said. "Education policy needs to be based on public input, and independent of whoever the governor is or what his political agenda might be."

Assembly Education Chairwoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, and her vice-chairwoman, Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, also question the Senate measure.


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