Las Vegas, KTNV - A panel of Nevada lawmakers approved a set of regulations designed to substantially overhaul the Clark County School District's structure, clearing the final hurdle of what lawmakers and education experts say will significantly change how the district operates.
The Nevada Legislative Commission voted Friday to approve regulations shifting power away from the district's central administration and towards each of the district's 350 plus individual schools. The vote marks the final step in the regulatory process, and comes after the state board of education and an advisory committee also voted to approve the regulations.
Republican State Sen. Michael Roberson, who chairs the committee, said the change will put more power in the hands of parents.
"Starting next year, it's going to be a very different school district," he said.
Under a so-called "empowerment model," more decision-making power on budgeting and hiring will be vested with school principals. They'll be assisted by a panel of teachers, support staff, parents and students who will have input on hiring and other school issues.
The district's central administration will be forced to substantially scale down their budget, as the regulations call for 80 percent of education funds to be given directly to schools, and increasing to 85 percent the following school year.
Stakeholders including lawmakers, district officials and education policy think tanks spent hours reviewing the regulations, including holding eight parent town halls throughout the district to hear concerns about the plan.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who signed the initial legislation into law last year, said in a statement that the decision followed his goals for improving education and would directly help students.
"The language approved by the commission, passed with unanimous bipartisan support, puts the decisions that have an immediate impact in our classrooms directly in the hands of parents, teachers, and principals, which is where it belongs," he said in a statement.
But concerns still remain, with Nevada's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union accusing the committee of ignoring public notice times for the regulations and potentially opening up the door to changes in the state's open meeting law.
Democratic state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson voted to adopt the regulations but voiced concerns that such a substantial change shouldn't be merely the responsibility of the Legislative Commission, which meets while the state's part-time Legislature is not in session.
"This is a huge undertaking for a select few of us," he said during the meeting.
The regulatory process doesn't end here, as state law requires an oversight committee to meet for the next two years to oversee the change and suggest tweaks and changes. And the district will likely need to request additional funds from the Legislature in 2017 in order to meet the fiscal burden imposed by the plan.