Updated December 17, 2019 - 5:52 pm
Clark County officials hope to make room for 1,800 additional preschool students in the neediest schools by the 2020-21 academic year using an estimated $14 million in new tax revenue.
The money raised from a one-eighth cent sales tax that takes effect Jan. 1 could add preschool programs at about 50 elementary schools within the Clark County School District, according to county Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick.
The funding might be sufficient to address program shortages at seven schools in each of the seven commission districts, Kirkpatrick said during a County Commission meeting Tuesday.
“When you give a kid a head start, you’re addressing that school-to-prison pipeline right out of the gate,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said. “And if these kids are not ready and reading by third grade, it’s already been destined for many of them that their futures are very, very bleak.”
But there is an immediate task in front of policymakers: Identifying the schools.
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for CCSD, presented commissioners with a list of elementary schools scored by program demand and feasibility. There were more than 140 schools identified in need, defined as having less than 40 seats available on site for pre-kindergarten education, according to a county document.
Yet among those schools, there were other factors to consider: Are students at risk of not being kindergarten ready? Is there physical space to accommodate a new preschool program and how expensive would a roll-out be?
Commissioners said they would reconvene in January with their school site choices and a decision on whether they would prefer to introduce half-day or full-day program options, or a combination of both.
Kirkpatrick and Commissioner Justin Jones have also been exploring using an in-home kindergarten readiness program, which used software from the Waterford UPSTART company and requires just 15 to 20 minutes of study every weekday. A privately funded pilot program in the county has shown promising results since its September launch, according to company representative Claudia Miner.
The one-eighth percent sales tax, expected to generate $54 million annually, was authorized by county policymakers through powers granted by Assembly Bill 309.
The commission has previously authorized spending $12 million in projected tax revenue on fighting chronic absenteeism and truancy in schools and $9 million on workforce training. The money is restricted to programs outlined by Legislature.
‘Little Ethiopia’ borders appear set
The commission also moved forward with a plan to create a cultural designated area called “Little Ethiopia,” which would be the first such designation under a new county policy governing how cultural enclaves are formally established.
While two town boards must still sign off before the proposal returns to policymakers for final approval, commissioners signaled their approval of proposed boundaries for the district, which had not been set before Tuesday.
“Little Ethiopia” would be bounded by Twain Avenue to the north; Lindell Road to the west; Tropicana Avenue to the south; and Arville Street to the east.
Nevada Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, D-Las Vegas, believed to be the first Ethiopian-American elected to public office in the U.S., proposed the district due to the growing concentration of Ethiopian residents and small businesses in the area.
Commissioners also approved giving $2.1 million to the nonprofit, HELP of Southern Nevada, to acquire the Framing Hope Warehouse, near the HELP Street Campus at 1600 E. Flamingo Rd.
The warehouse, currently leased for $144,000 annually, holds donated merchandise from a dozen Home Depot stores in Southern Nevada to be redistributed to nonprofits and clients in need.
It will be paid for by reallocating unused federal grant money, according to a county staff report.