Las Vegas Sun

August 2, 2015

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Nevada’s new education chief has designs on modernizing agency

The state Department of Education was designed in another century, says the new state school chief.

"It's been strong on monitoring and not on leadership," says James Guthrie, who was appointed state superintendent of public instruction in March by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

He told the Legislative Committee on Education that he has ordered a study to assess the agency and that its results should be in by the end of July.

As an example, Guthrie said the department has no public information officer and no director of governmental affairs.

The department has a greater capacity to help local districts rather than checking on them, he said.

Nevada, he said, has the strictest definition of dropouts. "We're at the bottom" when compared with other states, Guthrie said. He indicated Nevada should be compared on an equal level with the rest of the states.

He favors full-day kindergarten as revenue becomes available. But Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said Nevada has to get past pushing programs only when money is available.

Bobzien, chairman of the committee, said the state can't walk away from these challenges with the phase "when funds become available."

Guthrie said some of his suggestions will mean an increase in the education budget. He said he was confident that Sandoval is aware of these measures.

"I will do everything I can to persuade the governor," said Guthrie who is setting up shop in Las Vegas. In the past, superintendents had their main office in Carson City.

The legislative committee also got a briefing on charter schools. There are 30 charter schools in the state with 11,500 students.

Kathleen Conaboy, chairwoman of the state Charter School Authority, said funding for facilities should be made available. She said these schools should have access to a fund that would open the door for making improvements, do repairs and other capital programs.

Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, said these schools must have the ability to borrow on a tax exempt basis. He said these schools should have access to the same funds as the public schools for building or making improvements.

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