Reid asks Gibbons to address education funding

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons to address education funding in the event the governor calls a special session.

Here’s a copy of the letter Reid sent Gibbons:

Dear Governor Gibbons,

In these challenging economic times, school districts across Nevada have faced unprecedented budget cuts and have been forced to make many difficult decisions as a result. Fortunately, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which I worked hard to pass, provided Nevada’s schools, colleges, and universities with over $500 million in funding to help them weather the economic downturn.

In addition to these funds, the recovery legislation also included $4 billion for a nationwide competition to help spur innovation and raise student achievement. Recently, as you know, the U.S. Department of Education announced the final rules for this competition, which Education Secretary Duncan has referred to as the “Race to the Top.” Through this program, Nevada could compete for up to $175 million in federal grant funds.

Our state, in large part due to one of the lowest per-pupil funding rates in the nation, has lagged behind other states in student performance, high school graduation rates, and college completion rates. We should seize this unique opportunity to help put into place meaningful reforms. These funds are not intended for short-term fixes to budget gaps or as a substitute for state support for education. Rather, they can help put Nevada in a stronger position to raise standards, improve student achievement, better recruit and retain teachers, and help prepare Nevada students for success in college or a career.

As you are aware, in order to compete for these funds, states may not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers to linking student achievement and teacher evaluations. Nevada is one of just a few states that would not be eligible to apply for “Race to the Top” funding due to current law that prohibits such use of student achievement data.

I understand that you are considering calling for a special session of the Nevada legislature to address a number of budgetary issues. Should you decide to do that, I urge you to also address Nevada’s eligibility for “Race to the Top” funding. It is in our state’s interest to act as soon as possible to ensure that Nevada is able to apply. Swift action will allow our legislators, school districts and state education officials the time needed to build support and prepare a proposal that can compete with other states.

I pledge my strong support for this effort and am confident that with strong bipartisan backing and the support of Nevada’s teachers, we can ensure that the opportunity to compete for millions in federal funds will not be lost.

Sincerely,

HARRY REID
United States Senator

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