Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2017

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CCSD files lawsuit over reorganization

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L.E. Baskow

The CCSD Board of Trustees are shown during a meeting at the Las Vegas Academy on Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

Citing a laundry list of concerns about its development and implementation, the Clark County School Board of Trustees filed suit Wednesday against the state regulation that directed a required reorganization of the school district.

The suit, filed in District Court in Carson City, names the Nevada Department of Education and the Nevada State Board of Education as defendants. It alleges the Advisory Committee created by Assembly Bill 394 — the reorganization statute passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2015 —overstepped its authority and failed to complete a required financial impact study while burdening the district with unfunded mandates in violation of state law.

“We’ve kind of exhausted (other options,)” CCSD Trustee Chris Garvey said Thursday. “Unfortunately, the Nevada Department of Education decided not to address these issues. We’re at a point now where we have to do something. We felt it was necessary to move forward in a little stronger position.”

Among the complaints listed in the filing are:

• Failure of the Advisory Committee to complete a financial impact study required by AB 394.

• Assumption of oversight of the reorganization transition process by the Advisory Committee, by implementing a Community Improvement Council led by a consultant costing $1.2 million. The committee wants CCSD to pay that fee.

• Lack of a weighted formula for per-pupil funding from the Department of Education as required by the regulation developed by the committee. The local school precinct budgeting process is supposed to start on Jan. 15.

The suit also notes that the regulation developed by the committee and approved by both the state board placed the reorganization on a timeline for the 2017-18 school year, which is a year ahead of the required date for implementation set out in AB 394.

“Since summer, we have raised concerns about the AB 394 regulation with the Advisory Committee, the SBE and the NDE, and we regret that for the most part these entities have chosen not to address our concerns,” said CCSD Board President Linda Young in a written statement.

Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero said he found out about the suit from media reports Wednesday and defined his level of interaction with the trustees to this point in the process as “not much.”

“I’m not sued very often, but every time I have been sued, I’ve been given the respect of being notified,” Canavero said. “It’s courtesy, it’s customary.”

Canavero noted that the Advisory Committee held more than 20 public input meetings and that Young served as a member of that committee.

“This just casts a giant shadow over this work,” Canavero said.

Canavero also expressed disappointment that the suit will require both his department and CCSD to divert time and resources, “which they certainly claim not to have a great supply of.”

“We’re still committed to supporting CCSD,” Canavero said, noting that the regulation will remain in place until a decision is made by the court. “We’re fully committed to assisting in any way we can.”

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, who chairs the Advisory Committee, declined comment on the suit by text Thursday afternoon.

State Board of Education member Felicia Ortiz received word of the suit Wednesday evening.

“It was a shock,” Ortiz said. “We’d been through so many meetings where they said we’re not trying to stop it and all that, and then they pretty quickly changed their minds. I feel like it’s adult business and not focusing on the kids.”

CCSD is the nation’s fifth-largest school district with more than 320,000 students. AB 394 required that CCSD be reconfigured into an unspecified number of local school precincts, attempting to direct more control of each school away from the district’s central office and into the hands of school-based advisory committees assembled at each site.

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