Nevada faces January deadline to secure $175 million in education funding

Nevada has until mid-January to become eligible to compete for millions of dollars in new federal education grants, but the hurdles are greater than just repealing a law the prevents tests scores from being used in teacher evaluations, a state education official said Wednesday.

"There's a lot that has to happen," said Gloria Dopf, Nevada deputy superintendent of public instruction. "They're not going to give you $175 million for status quo."

The dollar figure is how much the state could receive under a $4.3 billion program designed to support innovation in classrooms. The deadline to apply for the first phase of funding is Jan. 19.

Teacher union representatives and state leaders have said they are working on language to change the state law and make it acceptable to apply for funding. Gov. Jim Gibbons has said the issue would be on the agenda if he determines a special legislative session is needed to deal with the state budget.

A decision on a special session could be made this month or early January.

If there's no special session soon, Nevada would lose out on applying because the next regular legislative session isn't until 2011.

Dopf said the teacher evaluation law, while getting the most attention, is not the only challenge the state faces under a tight deadline.

"There are multiple parts of the requirements that must occur," she said, "not just the assessment of teachers."

Nevada was allocated $300 million in education funds earlier this year through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those funds were allocated on assurances by the state that it would meet certain educational and assessment standards, Dopf said.

The state has received about two-thirds of those funds so far. To receive the rest, it must submit an application by Jan. 11 detailing how those assurances have been implemented and documented.

But some criteria is still being completed by the federal government, she said. While Nevada has participated in a consortium to develop common core standards - nationwide target achievement levels for students in each grade - not all have been released.

Nevada would have to adopt the federal standards, which would require a review and approval by the Department of Education's Academic Standards Council and the state Board of Education. And the state's application to receive the rest of the $300 million in education funding must first be approved before Nevada can compete for additional grants, Dopf said.

"We are on target for a lot of things," she said, while conceding that time is short to implement other requirements. "We will be committed to working with all the parties to make it happen, or at least have a credible application."


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