Nevada Looks to Expand ‘Zoom Schools,’
Introduce Promise Program

May 17th, 2017 | By | Category: Advocacy, News
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Linda Gannon

By LINDA GANNON

—Nevada commenced its biannual legislative session in February, so it is a good time to share some updates that will affect our state’s second-language teachers and residents. We are now without CATESOL advocacy, but I had the opportunity to travel to Carson City recently and interact with members of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees. Here are some of the issues and bills that have survived past the midpoint of the session that will be of interest to CATESOL.

K-12:

A major piece of legislation that established support for English language learners was passed and funded during the 2013 and 2015 sessions: More than 100 elementary schools were designated as “Zoom Schools” and given supplemental funding for tutoring, smaller class sizes, and extended learning opportunities. Additional funding appears in the current proposed budget with the intent to expand this program to cover middle and high schools with high populations of ELLs, most of whom are found in the Las Vegas area.

Current bills still in play include one that reduces the weight of student test scores on teacher evaluation (AB 320) and expansion of pre-K education (AB 186). One of the most controversial issues in Nevada K-12 education is the funding of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which passed under a Republican-majority leadership last session and would allow parents $5,000 in state funds to use for private school tuition or tutoring. This could mean a significant drain on public education resources, and it is not very popular with our current legislative makeup (the majority of both the Senate and Assembly are now Democrats)—except that it is with Governor Sandoval, who is expected to use his support of ESAs as a bargaining chip later in the session as other bills arrive on his desk.

Higher Education:

The Promise Program (SB 391) would essentially make community college free for Nevada students by filling in any funding gaps left after financial aid and other grants have been applied. Nevada has a very low percentage of adults with college degrees, so there is a lot of attention being given to preparing our future workforce in this session as we see more high-tech employers such as Tesla, Faraday Future, and Switch move into our state.

A few proposed bills that died in committee include one making English the official state language; a bill breaking up NSHE, the current system of all two- and four-year public higher-education institutions in Nevada; and a bill that would have prohibited Nevada police from participating in federal immigration (ICE) activity without a warrant.

More information about each proposed bill, along with the ability to declare support or opposition with comments, can be found here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/.

As always, we expect things will get exciting as the session nears a close in early June, so here is a great way to follow the action with journalist Jon Ralston and his nonprofit news team covering all things Nevada politics: www.nevadaindependent.com.

Linda Gannon is CATESOL’s Nevada representative 2016-2017.

 

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