LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
(Nevada Revised Statutes 218.5352)
Under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 218.5354, the committee may review and comment upon: specific education bills; finance matters; accountability issues; the class-size reduction program; the automated student records (SMART) program; the condition of public education; and any other education-related topic. There are also specific statutory duties that the committee is required to perform. The committee must: (1) prescribe standards for the review of school-district-level accountability reports as contained within NRS 385.359 (the committee in 1997 already met its obligation in this regard); and (2) recommend effective remedial education programs for use by schools that have been classified as needing improvement under the state’s accountability program. This is an annual task and the committee acted most recently to adopt this list at its March 1 meeting.
A number of entities are required by statute to report to the committee, including an annual evaluation of Nevada’s public education accountability program. In addition, regular progress reports are made by the various bodies created by the 1997 Nevada Education Reform Act, including the Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools and the Commission on Educational Technology. The committee’s budget contains $250,000 for contractual services that may be needed by these two bodies over the biennium.
Committee Proceedings and Major Issues
As of March 3, 2000, the Legislative Committee on Education will have met six times since the 1999 Legislative Session, three times in Las Vegas, twice in Carson City, and once in Fallon. The members have received progress reports with regard to the following: the status of implementing a pilot program to rebuild an older school in Clark County; the status of the state’s new regional professional development programs for teachers; testimony concerning reports required of police departments of the University and Community College System of Nevada, along with allegations concerning incidents involving inappropriate actions by UNLV police; and efforts by the State Department of Education to develop statewide tests linked to Nevada’s new academic standards.
Additionally, the committee approved the action taken by the Interim Finance Committee at its November 17, 1999, meeting for the payment of $93,835 from the State Contingency Fund for work performed in the past fiscal year by the Council for Basic Education (CBE) for Nevada’s Council to Establish Academic Standards in Public Schools, reserving a like amount from the committee’s budget to revert to that fund at the end of the current biennium. In addition, the committee voted to approve the Council’s work plan for Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001 for work to be performed by CBE, which includes allocating the remaining $91,000 that was earmarked for Council consulting needs from the committee’s budget.
The members also received informational presentations concerning: the Millennium Scholarship Program; school assessments (testing) requirements; including authorized student exemptions from statewide testing; the new federal Title I mandates; the impact of recent scoring errors; the impact of remediation funding within at-risk schools; the impact of testing within the school day; test item selection procedures; and test security procedures. Additional presentations reviewed by the committee included: school district reports to staff and parents concerning significant education laws enacted by the 1999 Legislature; programs to track the college continuation and success rate of high school graduates sponsored; teacher licensing activity in Nevada and the tiered licensing system in place in Indiana. In addition, the final report of the Nevada Mathematics Advisory Task Force on the Nevada High School Proficiency Examination in Mathematics was presented to the committee by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Future committee meetings will include a review of charter schools issues; a progress report on Elko County School District’s class-size reduction pilot program; school district policies regarding Ritalin use; alignment of textbooks and other materials to the new academic standards; cost and quality issues with education materials; and resource allocation for schools with high proportions of at-risk students.