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EDITORIAL: CCSD hit with another justified lawsuit

If only the Clark County School District were as good at educating as it is at needlessly getting itself into legal hot water.

The cities of Henderson and North Las Vegas have sued the district over its treatment of nonvoting members. The Board of Trustees has seven elected members. Last year, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 175, which added four nonvoting trustees to the board. The Clark County Commission and Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas, now each appoint a nonvoting member.

The elected board members vigorously opposed the move. AB175 was a vote of no confidence — and for good reason. The district has been failing students for decades. Achievement and grading standards are low. Violence, chronic absenteeism and unfilled teaching positions are high. Board dysfunction has contributed to the problems.

Not surprisingly, the board didn’t humbly accept this rebuke. The elected members quickly stripped the appointees of their power to make motions or ask for items to be reconsidered. A wide range of interests, including the bill’s legislative sponsors, protested this juvenile power play. It also violated the clear language of the bill.

The law prohibits new appointed members from voting or serving as board officers. Otherwise, they “have the same rights and responsibilities as voting members of the board of trustees,” according to the statute. Not a lot of wiggle room there. Perhaps the elected members and their legal advisers can claim their reading comprehension is as poor as many district students.

The board’s behavior is emblematic of the short-sightedness that led to Carson City saddling it with four new members. By passing AB175, legislators made it obvious they aren’t happy with how the district is being run. The Clark County Education Association has called for the district to be put into receivership. After showering them with money, Gov. Joe Lombardo wants increased accountability for school districts.

Purely out of self-preservation, the board would have been wiser to have welcomed its newest members. When the district’s performance continued to lag, elected trustees could then argue that the board isn’t the most pressing problem. Lawmakers might then talk about doing more than rearranging the deck chairs, such as reforming the state’s collective bargaining laws or pushing for school choice.

Instead, the trustees passed a ridiculous policy that’s highly likely to be overturned in court.

By refusing to graciously yield an inconsequential bit of authority now, elected trustees have not only broken the law, they’ve made it much more likely they’ll lose a substantial amount of authority in the future.

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