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Organizers file signatures for school breakup initiative

An initiative campaign that could break up the Clark County School District says it has garnered enough signatures to send the issue to lawmakers next year.

The Community Schools Initiative is a ballot initiative that will allow local governing bodies across Nevada to opt out of their county school districts and instead create their own.

The effort turned in more than 220,000 signatures on Wednesday to qualify for the ballot, well above the 140,777 signatures needed, organizers for the effort said in a press release Wednesday.

If the initiative is deemed to have garnered enough valid signatures, the Nevada Legislature could also pass it during its upcoming legislative session — which kicks off on Feb. 6 — or it would go to voters to decide its fate during the 2024 election.

The initiative was also endorsed by several Southern Nevada area-chambers of commerce earlier this year.

The Clark County School District, the fifth-largest district in the country, serves approximately 300,000 students and has been plagued by concerns of flagging student performance, school safety and a dysfunctional board over the last year.

Earlier this year, Superintendent Jesus Jara told educators in the district to ignore the recent talks of breaking up the district, saying that, while the district recognized the need to continue improving student performance, breaking up the district would do nothing to address the issue.

On Wednesday, Jara again denounced the initiative as an “adult-centered distraction” to educating students.

“Dismantling the economies of scale achieved by CCSD will raise the costs of educating all children and further exacerbate the inequities impacting our neediest children and violate their rights,” he said in a statement released by the district. “If anything is to change, Nevada must provide more funding and academic rigor to improve educational outcomes. Pointing fingers at CCSD and calling for its breakup is an easy populist talking point. Educating our students adequately requires an honest, reasoned, equitable, accountable, and sustainable strategy supported with optimal funding for the new pupil-centered funding formula to produce outcomes other than Nevada’s current 49th in the nation funding levels. This initiative achieves none of these.”

In a news release Wednesday, Dan Stewart, chairman of the initiative, said the effort was meant to put decision making and funding for Nevada schools closer to its students.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this effort from every corner of our state,” Stewart said. “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this process from volunteers, donors, signature gatherers, community leaders and more. We urge the Nevada Legislature to pass this initiative next session.”

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

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