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CCSD board pushes legislation to address teacher shortage

With less than six months before the start of the next legislative session, the Clark County School District plans to prioritize bills that could address the statewide teacher shortage and establish standards and qualifications for school board members.

Under state law, the district can request that bills be drafted for potential consideration by the Legislature. Nevada’s Legislature, which meets once every two years, is set to reconvene on Feb. 6.

School districts across the state receive one bill draft to submit ahead of the start of the legislative session. Clark County, because of its size, gets two.

At the Clark County School Board meeting on Aug. 25, the board voted unanimously to request a bill draft that would attempt to address the statewide teacher shortage by improving wages, creating nationwide teacher license reciprocity and paying for application fees.

The board also considered advancing proposals that would update the state’s bullying statutes and allow parents to opt their children out of sex education rather than opting them in. Both proposals failed to advance by a 3-4 vote.

Trustees Lola Brooks, Linda Cavazos, Danielle Ford and Evelyn Garcia Morales voted against a proposal to change the bullying statutes, while Trustees Irene Cepeda, Katie Williams, Garcia Morales and Brooks voted against the change to the sex education statute.

Instead, the board voted 4-3 to advance a proposal that would establish standards and qualifications for education-related oversight boards, such as the School Board and the Board of Regents.

Trustees Cavazos, Ford and Lisa Guzman voted against advancing the board standards proposal.

‘Difficult to choose’

“I know it’s difficult,” Cepeda, who serves as board president, said following the vote. “There’s a lot of items we all support, and I know it’s difficult to choose.”

Every legislative session, entities like counties, cities and school boards can request that certain pieces of legislation be drafted.

Those requests must be submitted to the Legal Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau by Sept. 1.

District spokesperson Tod Story said the proposals start out as a concept, and bill drafters at the Legislative Counsel will go through and identify which existing state statutes are affected, working with the entity to identify specifics around how the bill would be implemented.

If passed in the Legislature next year, the bill would ultimately go to the relevant state department for implementation and regulation.

On the heels of concerns over school safety, the board also considered a proposal seeking more funding for school districts to implement critical safety measures like enforcement of a single point of entry, fencing, incident alert systems and security cameras.

The district already has begun implementing similar measures at some of its schools after experiencing a spate of violence last school year. The district has authorized emergency funding for more than a dozen schools to upgrade security cameras, establish a single point of entry and implement new fencing.

But Williams said the state, not the school district, should be leading the charge on school safety “given that they have 17 districts to look after,” not just Clark County.

The board also considered advancing proposals that would expand exit surveys for teachers to increase retention, allow professionals to teach classes in the district without requiring a teaching license, and seek funding to provide child care at schools for teen parents.

‘Something they will actually address’

Of those who spoke during the public comment period or sent in a written comment, the majority spoke in favor of changing sex education statutes to be opt-out rather than opt-in.

Acknowledging the public’s feedback, Williams said she didn’t think the school district should take the issue of sex education on as a legislative action.

“I don’t think the school districts in the nation should take on the role of a parent,” she said.

Ford said she wasn’t going to make opt-out sex education one of her top priorities for the district’s two bill proposals this year, but she said it would be her No. 1 priority for the next legislative session.

“If there was a legislator that wanted to push this forward, it seems like we would be a really great asset, and it seems like we have a lot of community support, so we really could be influential,” she said.

Ultimately, most of the board members said addressing the teacher shortage was their No. 1 priority for the legislative bill drafts this year.

“If the largest school district in the state gets behind this, this is something they will actually address,” Guzman said.

As school districts around the country have grappled with teacher shortages in the wake of the pandemic, the shortage in Clark County resulted in the district announcing a five-day “pause” in classes due to extreme staffing issues last school year.

In February, the state’s Legislative Commission gave the district the option of hiring emergency substitute teachers who only have a high school diploma, and school leaders announced over the summer that the district was raising the starting salary of teachers to $50,115.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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