Deal reached on grant application

With only hours to go before an extended deadline, the Clark County teachers union Friday morning signed off on the school district's application for $40 million in federal grant money.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who laid the groundwork by volunteering to mediate a meeting between the two parties, announced the agreement. Under a veto power granted by the Obama administration, the school district had to receive an OK from the Clark County Education Association to apply for the Race to the Top grant.

The money would be spent to provide high-tech tools and reading programs for 41,000 students at 63 of Clark County's poorer schools, and hiring 22 teachers and 24 support staff dedicated mostly to helping students struggling with English. The union was using its veto threat to complain the district still doesn't pay teachers enough and wants to reform teacher evaluation procedures to take student performance into account.

The governor, Superintendent Dwight Jones and teachers union officials all deserve congratulations for setting aside their differences - at least for now.

Meantime, on a related subject, on Tuesday, Clark County voters will decide Question 2, which would increase property taxes and raise up to $720 million over six years for school district capital improvements.

Most of the objections to the tax hike concentrate on the ways the school district used its funds in the past - which indeed were often short-sighted. There absolutely must be legislative reform to wall off maintenance funds and prevent school boards from short-changing maintenance, and stopping unions from demanding that such revenues be steered their way instead. More maintenance work also needs to be outsourced.

But the school district has indisputable needs at many of its older campuses. Much of the money will be used to replace air-conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical infrastructure that pose health and safety threats at some schools.

The reality is, if Question 2 fails, in the coming years the school district will end up diverting more general fund revenue to capital projects and repairs that can't be delayed.

Vote yes on Question 2.