Nevada initiative would allow new breakaway school districts

The Legislature on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City.

The Legislature on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City.
Photo: David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Amid reports of struggling student performance and school board upheavals, a group wants to ask Nevada voters to give communities the power to secede from large school districts.

A political action committee called "Community Schools Initiative" filed paperwork this week to begin gathering signatures for a citizen initiative that would compel state lawmakers to address the question next year or send it to voters as a ballot question in a later election, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Henderson City Councilman Dan Stewart, who described the committee's purpose in the filings as to "propose and support a ballot initiative to allow communities to opt out of countywide school districts."

The Clark County School District in the Las Vegas metro area is the fifth largest in the United States and serves more than 320,000 students. English and math proficiency test scores in the district have dropped since the onset of the pandemic and board members have fought — and at one point almost removed — the district's superintendent from his post.

If the effort succeeds, local governments could "opt out" of county-wide school districts and pass ordinances to ask voters if they would prefer forming their own.

The new districts would be smaller and directed by their own boards, while retaining state funding and honoring existing staff contracts.

Stewart and the two other initiative backers, Annalise Castor and Bob Sweetin, argue that population growth and the sheer size of districts like Clark County "have become difficult to manage effectively."

"Individual municipalities or municipalities working together may, in some instances, prefer to form more appropriately-sized school districts, because communities may determine that they can better represent and serve children, parents, and families in smaller administrative units," they wrote in the initiative's preamble.

To force state lawmakers to consider their proposals, initiative backers must gather signatures from one-fourth of registered voters in each of Nevada's four congressional districts, or nearly 141,000 overall.

After signatures are verified and certified by the Secretary of State, the initiative would go before lawmakers in 2023. If they then chose to reject it or take no action, it would go before voters in a subsequent election.


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