Jim Hartman: Gov. Lombardo and education in Nevada

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

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In a March 6 interview with the Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston covering a wide-range of topics, first-term Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo gave himself a “B+” grade after 14 months in office and indicated his intention to seek re-election in 2026.

Much of the interview centered on education in Nevada and whether Lombardo’s historic, $2.6 billion K-12 funding increase will lead to a significant improvement in Nevada’s education system.

With a large budget surplus, Lombardo was able to propose a boost in per-pupil spending from $10,293 in FY2023 to $13,387 in FY2025, a massive 30% increase. It’s the largest biennial spending increase in K-12 education in Nevada history.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Lombardo said it was time to deal with “stubborn facts” regarding public education. Nevada’s public schools have been historically underfunded and historically underperformed for students.

When he announced the spending boost in his State of the State address last year, Lombardo made it clear he expected results in exchange.

“And if we don’t begin seeing results, I’ll be standing here in two years calling for systemic changes to the governance and leadership in K-12 education,” he said at the time.

Asked by Ralston whether he would have education “fixed” by the 2025 legislative session, Lombardo replied, “Oh, God no.”

Tragically, Nevada K-12 education must contend with the national calamity of learning loss resulting from COVID lockdowns and school closures.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, is the largest national organization assessing student achievement in the U.S. since 1969.

It released results for 2022 showing unprecedented declines in reading and math test scores when compared to pre-pandemic 2020 NAEP administered tests.

The most recent data from last June show academic declines suffered during the pandemic haven’t stabilized, despite efforts to address learning loss.

America’s teachers unions demanded schools be kept shut even as they remained open in Europe. School closures set back America’s children for years. Teachers unions used the pandemic to extort money from Congress.

Schools received $190 billion in federal COVID relief to safely reopen and address learning losses, but schools stayed closed and much of the money was never spent. Nevada schools received more than $1.5 billion through three rounds of federal COVID packages.

For Nevada the Nation’s Report Card testing in 2022 found the average math scores for fourth and eighth grade students were lower than the national average and lower than the Nevada average in 2019.

Math proficiency for fourth graders dropped from 34% in 2019 to 28% in 2022 and for eighth graders fell from 26% to 21%.

In reading, the average test score for Nevada fourth graders in 2022 was lower than the national average and lower than the Nevada average in 2019. Reading proficiency dropped from 31% in 2019 to 27% in 2022.

Nevada eighth graders had average reading test scores in 2022 matching the national average and were the same as the Nevada average in 2019. Reading proficiency was 29% in both years.

Additional challenges include having high school graduation rates lower than pre-pandemic and more than a third of Nevada students being chronically absent.

In the 2023 legislative session, Lombardo supported reinstating the Read by Grade 3 law championed by Gov. Brian Sandoval requirement that children failing grade three reading proficiency be held back.

Lombardo proposed legislation, supported by all 17 school superintendents and teacher unions, to restore a teachers ability to remove a student from their classroom. It permits school administrators to use suspension and expulsion in aggravated cases of battery, drug dealing or firearm possession.

By executive order last year, the governor mandated an audit of Nevada’s 17 public school districts and the state Public Charter School Authority.

Lombardo emphasized that unprecedented investment into K-12 education warrants unprecedented accountability and fiscal responsibility.

E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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