Today’s piece is cross-posted from ExcelinEd’s reform news section.
The Nevada Legislature made history this session by passing extraordinary education reform legislation. Beginning on February 2 and adjourning at midnight on June 1, the Nevada Assembly and Senate considered an array of bills that would positively affect the state’s families and schools. ExcelinEd commends Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga, Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Senator Becky Harris and Senator Scott Hammond for their leadership in championing an aggressive education reform agenda for Nevada.
On April 13, Governor Sandoval signed into law the Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program (AB 165), creating the state’s first school choice program and providing tax credit scholarships for families in need of high-quality school options for their children’s education. The Scholarship Program was a top priority for Governor Sandoval.
On June 2, Governor Sandoval signed the Universal Education Savings Accounts law (SB 302), the strongest piece of school choice legislation in America. SB 302 builds off the tax credit scholarship law signed earlier in the session, creating universal Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in Nevada and bringing comprehensive innovation and customization to K-12 education. Under this program, state funds are deposited into an account managed by parents and supervised by the state. The funds can be used for various purposes, including tuition and fees at participating schools. ESAs are a signature policy for ExcelinEd, whose experts worked closely with Nevada’s leaders and provided technical assistance in developing the policy.
Governor Sandoval signed the Read by Three Act (SB 391) into law on June 3. This important law will improve early literacy and student achievement. Read by Three will combat illiteracy through early identification and parental notification of reading deficiencies, intensive reading interventions for students in need of additional support and retention as a last resort at the end of third grade. Nevada leaders sought strategic guidance on policy development from ExcelinEd on Read by Three and the resulting law reflects fundamental principles found in ExcelinEd’s signature K-3 Reading policy.
The Nevada Legislature passed a data privacy bill (AB 221) on the last day of session. AB 221 ensures the Department of Education publishes and updates what student data is collected, the reason for collecting such data and how it is used or shared. The bill also requires any contract involving student data to protect the privacy and security of that data and penalties if those requirements are not met. AB 221 balances the needs of teachers, school leaders and policymakers to evaluate student performance, while protecting the privacy of students and their families.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT BILLS
- The Nevada Legislature passed legislation to increase access and quality of charter schools in Nevada. SB 491 will appropriate $10 million total for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 and Fiscal Year 2016-2017 to aid in the creation and operation of high quality charter schools to serve students who live in poverty. The bill was delivered to Governor Sandoval on June 3.
- Legislation was passed this session to assist failing schools. AB 448 would create the Achievement School District within the Department of Education to identify low-performing public schools and convert them into charter schools. The bill was delivered to the Governor on June 3.
EFFECTIVE TEACHERS AND LEADERS
- AB 483 requires school districts to set aside funding to increase the salary of highly-effective teachers and administrators. This performance-pay legislation prioritizes raising student achievement and is barred from collective bargaining. AB 483 was delivered to the Governor on June 3.
- The Nevada Legislature took great strides to end the archaic “Last In, First Out” policy. SB 92, which passed this session on June1, states that the decision to lay off a teacher or administrator must be based on performance under the statewide evaluation system.