Education governance may be in for a legislative overhaul in the next session.
Members of the Legislative Committee on Education agreed Tuesday to sponsor a bill draft calling for the creation of a new state agency dedicated to charter school oversight.
Lawmakers also said it was time to study ways of streamlining an education bureaucracy they acknowledged was fragmented.
“We have just about everything for anything in public education,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, who also is committee chairwoman. “Most of us intimately involved in public education probably still don’t have a clear enough picture of how all the pieces fit into the whole.”
Approval and supervision of charter schools has become a problematic issue for the state, with school districts declining to approve new programs, partly because they lack the staff to supervise the independent schools. Charter schools are run by private organizations but receive public funding based on their enrollment.
Proponents of charter schools took another blow last year when the state Board of Education also imposed a moratorium on new charter school approvals. Lawmakers hope to remedy the situation by creating a new agency, the Nevada Charter School Institute, that would be responsible for sponsoring and regulating charter schools. In effect, it would become the state’s “18th school district.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault said the new agency could be operational by 2010. He estimated it would cost $326,000 the first year and $390,000 for the second year. The plan is for the new agency to become self-supporting within five years by charging administrative fees to charter schools.
The new agency also would have its own board of directors.
The state Board of Education would retain some jurisdiction over the new agency and could reject institute regulations that “threaten the operation of charter schools” or create an “undue financial hardship for any charter school in Nevada.”
But State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, wasn’t convinced the institute would be independent.
“I guess it’s a debate we’ll have in the Legislature,” said Cegavske, who abstained from voting because she did not want to stop the bill draft from going forward.
The committee agreed to propose a nonpartisan study of the governance for K-12 education in the next legislative session. In addition to the state Board of Education, Nevada has five separate councils and commissions for technology, parental involvement, academic standards, educational excellence and professional standards.
State Board of Education Member Jan Biggerstaff told lawmakers that “the governance structure in Nevada is in desperate need of efficient organization.”
Rheault and his staff are required to attend so many meetings, Biggerstaff said, that “we’re wearing out the people responsible for serving all the students of Nevada.”
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-799-2922.