CARSON CITY – A Henderson city councilman who wants a state law change to let communities like his carve out their own school districts has filed paperwork to gather citizen support for the move and put the question before state lawmakers next year.
Dan Stewart, who declared but later withdrew his candidacy for Henderson mayor last year, leads an initiative petition filed Tuesday through a political action committee he formed. The “Community Schools Initiative” PAC’s express purpose is to “propose and support a ballot initiative to allow communities to opt out of countywide school districts.”
If successful, the move would split up the Clark County School District, the fifth-largest in the country with more than 300,000 students. Henderson, with some 320,000 residents, is the second largest city in the state and roughly half the size of neighboring Las Vegas.
The initiative filed by Stewart and two others, Annalise Castor and Bob Sweetin, proposes to let local governing bodies “opt out” of a county district and create their own via passage of a resolution or local ordinance, subject to subsequent voter approval. The locality also could place the question directly on the local ballot.
If approved by voters, a new district would begin operating within two years with its own board of trustees, guidelines and policies equivalent to those of a county district. Under the proposal, the new school entity would retain previously allocated funding, honor existing contracts, and function under the same state Board of Education jurisdiction that applies to county districts.
A preamble to the proposed law change included in the petition notes that Nevada’s population “has grown significantly” since the system of countywide districts was established and that “countywide school districts have become difficult to manage effectively.”
“Individual municipalities or municipalities working together may, in some instances, prefer to form more appropriately-sized school districts, because communities may determine that they can better represent and serve children, parents, and families in smaller administrative units,” the preamble states.
Stewart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As a statutory initiative, the proposal first needs signatures from nearly 141,000 voters statewide, one quarter of the total from each congressional district. Signed petitions would go initially to counties for signature verification in late November, then to the secretary of state for certification.
If it qualifies, the initiative would go to the Legislature in 2023, becoming law if lawmakers approve it. It would go before voters if the Legislature rejects it or takes no action.