One week after several area chambers of commerce called for breaking up the state’s largest school district, Nevada Democratic lawmakers announced on Monday that they were calling for a review of its finances.
Ahead of the start of the next legislative session, lawmakers said they were requesting a bill draft that would let the Legislature audit the Clark County School District.
Nevada’s Legislature meets once every two years and is set to reconvene on Feb. 6.
The move comes as the district, the fifth-largest district in the country, has faced concerns over teacher shortages, low rankings nationally and talks of being placed into receivership by the state.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, chair of the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, said she and other lawmakers have recently fielded questions from constituents about problems with their children’s school transportation or teacher shortages.
The last time the Legislature audited the district was in 2004, according to Carlton, D-Las Vegas. In 2019, the state implemented a new funding formula that changed how money is distributed to school districts.
A new audit would allow the Legislature to “more proactively engage with CCSD” and answer questions from constituents about the district’s financial transparency and accountability, Carlton said Monday.
“Once you implement something, it’s really good to go back and take a look and say, ‘Is it working the way we thought it would work?’” she said.
Earlier this month, six Southern Nevada chambers of commerce endorsed an effort — dubbed the Community Schools Initiative — that would break up the district and allow local governing bodies to create their own school district.
If the effort garners enough signatures, it could be passed by the Legislature next year or be decided by the voters in 2024.
Carlton said the Legislature has always done addition and subtraction to calculate funding, but if the Community Schools Initiative is to move forward, some division might also have to take place.
“We need to understand the funding model if division is going to be considered and how that will work to benefit all the kids in CCSD,” she said.
In response to the call by legislators for an audit, the district said in a statement Monday that it welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate transparently its “student-focused spending.”
Per-pupil funding, or the amount of money a district spends for each student, has increased by 25 percent over the last four years, the district said in its statement.
The district also pointed to its Open Book portal, which tracks how much the district spends on everything from salaries to individual schools, as a place where the public or “legislators calling for an audit” could review its accounting.
“Despite Nevada’s lowest in the nation education funding status, CCSD educators, support staff, and administrators produce better student academic outcomes with the money we receive,” the district said in its statement.
Carlton said the audit process is meant to be collaborative, and she hopes that it can be completed before the start of the 2025 session so that the Legislature can understand what the district’s funding needs actually are.
“I think we all need to be on the same page moving forward,” she said.