Gibbons: No date set for special session yet
Gov. Jim Gibbons said Friday he hasn’t decided if and when a special session of the Legislature might be called to deal with the revenue shortfall but that he won’t be calling lawmakers before Jan. 19 to change state education law.
He reaffirmed his decision to wait until the second round of Race to the Top grants in June, saying that will give the state time to develop a much stronger application and maximize the grant funding received.
Nevada law currently prohibits the use of student performance in evaluating teachers, which would disqualify the state from receiving those stimulus grants. If the law is repealed, Nevada could be eligible for up to $175 million in Race to the Top funding.
Lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, have urged Gibbons to apply before Jan. 19 to seek grant money in the first round of awards. They have recommended a special session immediately to amend that statute.
In their recommendation, student achievement would still be barred from use in disciplining teachers whose student scores were low.
Gibbons said student achievement shouldn’t be the only criteria for evaluating teachers but that preventing test scores from being applied to teachers would violate the intent of the federal law.
“Under-performing schools must be held accountable for student performance from the school administration to the classroom teacher,” he said.
Gibbons said his invitation to lawmakers to periodically update themselves on the budget situation and discuss any ideas on what to do is intended to be informal. As a result, he said he isn’t certain those sessions will be open to the public and press.
He proposed Thursday to hold “open door” sessions about every two weeks through February to ensure lawmakers are fully involved in the process of dealing with a revenue shortfall that has already reached $67 million after just the first quarter of this fiscal year.
“I want them to feel comfortable they can make recommendations without being vetted in the public mind before they are even acted on,” he said. “I want to give them the comfort level that they can say what they want in those meetings.”
Gibbons has asked state agencies to develop plans for budget cuts of 6 percent, 8 percent and as deep as 10 percent if the revenue projections from the Economic Forum say that would be necessary.
The forum will meet in January to reproject major state revenues.
He also has asked state employees to weigh in with their ideas on how to save money.
He said in just the day or two since he issued that invitation, his office hasn’t received many responses yet but that he expects some good ideas to start coming in.
“The people who work for the state of Nevada are hardworking and bright,” he said.