(The Center Square) – An initiative to break up Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD) submitted over 220,000 signatures for verification, surpassing the 140,777 needed to put it on the ballot.
The Community Schools Initiative would allow any city to opt out of the existing county school district to form a new community-based city school district. Initiative organizers say Nevada’s county-based school districts, which have been in place since at least 1956, have “resulted in disproportionately large school districts.”
CCSD is the nation’s fifth-largest school district, serving over 300,000 students.
“By returning schools to the community through a statutory initiative, municipalities and cities get their power back and can form their own ‘Community School District’ that is adjusted to the size of the community,” the initiative website explains.
New community school districts would have “all the authority, rights, and powers that county school districts have now, and will retain all funding previously allocated or granted to it by the state or federal governments,” according to the initiative petition.
Before moving forward, the counties must verify signatures submitted on Nov. 23 and certified by the Secretary of State. The 140,777 required signatures must also be evenly distributed among Nevada’s four congressional districts.
If the signatures are approved, the initiative will be considered by the Nevada Legislature in 2023. If the legislature chooses not to pass it, the initiative will be placed on the 2024 general election ballot.
“Our coalition brought forth the Community Schools Initiative to get decision making and funding closer to Nevada’s students,” said Dan Steward, Community Schools Initiative chairman, in a statement. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this effort from every corner of our state. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this process from volunteers, donors, signature gatherers, community leaders and more. We urge the Nevada Legislature to pass this initiative next session.”
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara responded to the news by criticizing the initiative, calling it “adult-centered.”
“While we recognize the need for improved educational outcomes across Nevada, these adult-centered distractions continue to harm our children,” Jara said in a statement. “Should communities choose to secede from the Clark County School District, they will increase taxpayer costs by expanding government bureaucracies. Dismantling the economies of scale achieved by CCSD will raise the costs of educating all children and further exacerbate the inequities impacting our neediest children and violate their rights.”
Jara suggested that Nevada should instead “provide more funding” to CCSD.
“Pointing fingers at CCSD and calling for its breakup is an easy populist talking point,” he said. “Educating our students adequately requires an honest, reasoned, equitable, accountable, and sustainable strategy supported with optimal funding for the new pupil-centered funding formula to produce outcomes other than Nevada’s current 49th in the nation funding levels. This initiative achieves none of these.”
The Clark County Education Association also announced its opposition to the initiative and support for increased funding in a Wednesday statement.
“CCEA will await a determination from the Secretary of State on whether there are enough valid signatures to qualify the initiative petition to break up the Clark County School District,” the statement says. “However, CCEA believes that breaking up the CCSD will not resolve the systemic problems which result from having the lowest funding levels in the nation, nor the high vacancy rate of educators that plagues our district and the county.”
“Furthermore, CCEA believes that this effort will only exacerbate the gross inequity that exists between urban core schools and the predominantly white suburban ring of the school district,” CCEA continued.
In September, the initiative was endorsed by 6 Nevada chambers of commerce, including the Vegas Chamber, Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Urban Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, and Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.